Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Nico Hulkenberg on his way to winning the 24 Hours of LeMans

    F1 analysis deepens as Hulkenberg wins Le Mans

  • Hamilton talks 'good sex' with Playboy – reports
  • Boullier safe after plane scare
  • Better Renault engine not ready yet
  • Leimer heads to Austria for FIA check – report
  • Todt visits Ferrari – report
  • India GP promoter 'waiting' for government help
  • Lauda agrees F1 should be more 'risky'
  • Ferrari should explain Raikkonen spin – Hakkinen
  • McLaren 'short nose' passes crash test
  • Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz to kick-off new F1 Revolution in Mexico

F1 analysis deepens as Hulkenberg wins Le Mans
(GMM) Full-time F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg has described winning the fabled Le Mans 24 hour race as the "best day of my career".

On debut, the 27-year-old veteran of 84 grands prix on Sunday beat the sister Porsche prototype starring former F1 driver Mark Webber.

"It's probably the best day of my career, maybe even my life," said German Hulkenberg.

"I hope to return next year," he added.

Racing full-time for Force India in 2015, Hulkenberg was already attracting a lot of attention as he embarked on the ultra-rare feat of combining F1 with a Le Mans foray this year.

"Congratulations Nico Hulkenberg," read an official F1 'tweet', "the first active F1 driver to win Le Mans for 24 years."

Actually, the victory comes at an awkward time for F1, as its popularity declines and stakeholders consider how to speed and spice up the spectacle for the future.

Now, an active F1 driver has just won Le Mans, the showpiece of the increasingly fashionable world endurance championship that also boasts manufacturers Audi and Toyota.

It had been hoped the new 'power unit' regulations would attract more manufacturers to F1, but now also Ford has announced it is returning to Le Mans next year with a GT car.

"F1 should be concerned," said the British newspaper The Times. "Only Honda showed up (in F1) while Porsche, Toyota, Nissan and now Ford have all moved into the world of endurance cars."

Indeed, Le Mans is earning a renewed reputation as a series of choice among the world's best drivers.

"You always hear 'endurance race'," Hulkenberg told f1-insider.com, "but actually it's a sprint race. We push from pitstop to pitstop more than we do in formula one."

Outspoken Australian Webber, who switched from F1 to Le Mans full-time last year, said he is relieved F1 is "finally having a look at itself" as it moves to speed up the cars for 2017.

"They need to," he told the Telegraph.

"I mainly think about the drivers, the guys who should have the opportunity to experience something phenomenal. If they're happy, and on the edge, and it's risky, pushing the boundaries, then the fans love it.

"At the moment it's not like that," said Webber.

He also told the Australian press that prototype endurance cars are "super-rewarding" to drive.

"They're bloody quick, pretty much like F1 was five or six years ago. I'm certainly not pulling my hair out saving tires and things like that, so it's great," said Webber.

The big risk for F1 is that other drivers will now follow Hulkenberg and Webber's lead and make the switch.

"Remember," said Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Gruner, "Porsche wanted (Fernando) Alonso to race together with Hulkenberg in the third car at Le Mans. But Honda did not give permission."

And former F1 driver Lucas di Grassi, who on Sunday finished fourth at Le Mans with Audi, said the category is ready to absorb anyone else who might flee.

"It's simple," he told Brazil's Globo. "Where there are automakers investing in motor sport, you'll find the best drivers, because they pay the best wages, have the best resources and so on.

"If more (carmakers) leave F1 and come here, you would also see more top drivers doing the change too," di Grassi predicted.

Hamilton and GiGi Hadid
Hamilton and GiGi Hadid

Hamilton talks 'good sex' with Playboy – reports
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has talked openly about sex with the famous men's magazine Playboy, according to German reports.

As Bernie Ecclestone enthuses about the reigning world champion being a "super promoter of the sport", Hamilton reportedly said of sex: "When it comes to good sex, nothing comes close".

"The best thing is probably good sex in a good car," Hamilton added.

The 30-year-old Briton split with his long-time pop-star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger recently and is now linked not only with 20-year-old model Gigi Hadid but also Kendall Jenner, a 19-year-old member of the Kardashian clan.

"I'm enjoying my single life to the fullest," German media reports quote Hamilton as telling Playboy.

Boullier safe after plane scare
(GMM) Eric Boullier had a scare on Sunday as he returned from a visit to the fabled Le Mans race.

The McLaren boss was sharing a journey on a private plane with friend Zak Brown, a well-known F1 sponsorship figure, when the aircraft developed a fault.

Brown, describing the incident as a "close call", said on Twitter that the plane "lost all electronics mid-flight. Fire brigade met us in the runway".

Revealing more, a report on the official Le Mans website said the plane's "entire (electronics) system shut down and the pilot issued a rather worrying mayday signal".

"Thanks to the skills of the pilot, (the plane) landed safely in the end," the report added.

Better Renault engine not ready yet
(GMM) Renault-powered teams face a longer wait for performance improvements in 2015.

After a dire start to the season for the French manufacturer, boss Cyril Abiteboul said after Canada that with reliability now under control, Renault can finally turn its attention to power.

But until a better engine arrives, Red Bull and Toro Rosso are trying to compensate with their respective chassis.

"We try to do everything we can with the wings when there are many straights, like in Canada," Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz told the Spanish sports daily Marca.

"But even that does not completely fix the top speeds. We are missing a lot" of performance, he added.

Sainz admitted he does not expect performance improvements "until Spa", referring to the Belgian grand prix that takes place after the August break and forthcoming races in Austria, Britain and Hungary.

Dr Helmut Marko, the prominent Red Bull official, confirmed that Renault is currently working on performance improvements.

"Yes, there are some steps coming," he told F1's official website, "but the results have to be seen — if it works, then at best (it will arrive) at the last three races.

"We have to be patient. In three weeks from now we should know if the new project, which is on the dyno now, is working or not," added Marko.

Fabio Leimer
Fabio Leimer

Leimer heads to Austria for FIA check – report
(GMM) Fabio Leimer is heading to Austria this week hoping to fire up his Manor chances.

The Swiss driver and 2013 GP2 champion was trackside in Canada with the backmarker team recently, in his new role as official reserve.

And Blick, the Swiss newspaper whose F1 correspondent is the paddock veteran Roger Benoit, said 26-year-old Leimer's Friday driving duties could begin this weekend in Austria.

Between Canada and Austria, his manager Sven Mangold has been frantically searching for sponsors to fund Leimer's new F1 foray.

"Actually, I cannot say anything yet, as everything depends on the sponsors," Mangold had said in Canada.

Also important is that Leimer secures the mandatory FIA super license. "Once we have the all clear, the procedure takes a maximum of ten days," he said.

Blick said that Leimer will undergo a medical check by F1's governing body on Thursday, as his application for a super license reaches the "final stages".

Manor is yet to officially confirm that Leimer will be in action at the Red Bull Ring on Friday morning.

"I don't know when he will be in for his first FP1," said team president Graeme Lowdon. "That will be down to (team boss) John (Booth) as it's a driver call."

For his part, however, Leimer's ambition is clear.

"My goal is very clear," he told Speed Week. "I want to move up from the Friday and reserve role to become the regular driver.

"I signed this contract with the assurance that I will take place in several Friday practices with the prospect of becoming the regular driver," Leimer added.

"From Austria the opportunity should be there to drive in FP1 but at least in the test afterwards. And then I want it to be clear that 'Fabio Leimer can do more'."

Todt visits Ferrari – report
(GMM) FIA president Jean Todt made a visit to Maranello last Friday.

That is the claim of the well-known Ferrari media insider Leo Turrini, writing on his Quotidiano blog.

Before Todt was spotted enjoying the fabled Le Mans 24 hour race at the weekend, he travelled to Ferrari's Italian headquarters, Turrini said.

Tongue in cheek, Turrini speculated that the 69-year-old former Ferrari chief might have been indulging in "nostalgia", stopping by for a plate of tortellini, or enquiring about buying a new scarlet road car.

Another theory is that he wanted to talk to current Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene about the future of formula one and the shape of its next regulations.

Or perhaps he wanted to talk about Ferrari's collaboration with the 2016 American entrant Haas, which Turrini says has been "the subject of complaints by Mercedes and Red Bull".

But also controversial at present is Todt himself, particularly as the sport finds itself in a period of deep introspection amid raging debates about rules and governance.

"Todt," wrote Times correspondent Kevin Eason, "is seen as a detached figure in F1, unable and unwilling to intervene in its problems."

India trying to return
India trying to return

India GP promoter 'waiting' for government help
(GMM) Sameer Gaur, representing the former Indian grand prix promoter Jaypee, says he is "waiting" for the government to put the F1 race back on track.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said last week New Delhi can return to the calendar as early as 2016 but he is "waiting for the promoters to get back to me".

"We just need the Jaypee Group to say that 'we are happy to carry on' and we can revive the existing contract," he was quoted by the Telegraph India.

The existing contract was interrupted after the 2013 race when F1 reportedly baulked at the tax situation in India.

Gaur explained: "The issue basically is on the tax liability of the formula one group, whether they have to pay tax here in India or in England, mainly covering the income generated from licensing fee and income of the teams and drivers.

"We are waiting for the income tax issues to be sorted and once they are sorted, we will be back on track," he told the Press Trust of India.

Gaur admitted that a return even in 2016 is possible, but he was also highly critical of the role played by the Indian motor racing federation FMSCI.

"We will meet the Gaur family," FMSCI president Bharat Raj told the Deccan Herald. "They are very enterprising.

"As you know, the F1 promoter (Ecclestone) is very keen to bring F1 back to India. He wants to have a dialogue with the Gaur family.

"It may take some time, but soon there will be good news," he added.

But Raj also claims there is more to the current demise of the Indian grand prix than just the tax issue.

He said: "We need to sit and sort out things like the import policy, tax exemptions and more important, the license fee for F1, which is usually paid by the government across the world.

"This will take time. It won't happen overnight. The government also needs time to think and resolve these issues, but we are definitely taking up this issue," Raj added.

Lauda agrees F1 should be more 'risky'
(GMM) Niki Lauda has agreed with Kimi Raikkonen that F1 would benefit from a boost of danger.

2007 world champion and Ferrari driver Raikkonen was quoted last week as saying one thing that would improve the modern face of the sport is if F1 was "a little more dangerous".

"It (danger) is part of the game," the Finn told French broadcaster Canal Plus. "We don't want anybody to get hurt but it does make it more exciting."

F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda agrees, although he said he would choose the word "risky" rather than dangerous.

Laying out his main criticisms of the sport today, the triple world champion said: "There's too much control, too many rules and no more characters."

And the cars, Lauda told Bild am Sonntag newspaper, should be faster.

"I'm not saying that we should neglect safety," said Lauda, who in 1976 almost died and was left with lifelong scars after a fiery crash at the fearsome old Nurburgring.

"But if the cars were faster, the thrill for the drivers and the spectators would automatically increase."

He said he wants the grid to be occupied by "real men driving, not youngsters playing with their buttons on the steering wheel".

F1, argues Lauda, should be about "drivers with the highest driving skills; and I emphasize, driving skills".

"You cannot turn back the clock," he acknowledged, "but the driver should again have the car in his grasp, not as now where he is just pushing buttons."

And as the sport considers spicing up the sport with rule changes for 2017, Lauda said F1 must resist gimmicks like reverse grids or success ballast.

"Any kind of manipulation is the worst thing you can do to a sport," he insisted. "This must not happen."

Fellow Austrian and F1 legend Gerhard Berger agrees, insisting that it is difficult for the public at present to simply "turn on the television and understand" the sport.

"DRS zone 1, DRS zone two — it is just too complicated," said the Austrian, who has been a conspicuous presence in the paddock at grands prix recently.

"We need to have motor sport in which the driver is primarily the determining factor, not technology that, in the worst case, no one understands," he told the German broadcaster Sky.

Why did Raikkonen spin away third place in Montreal?
Why did Raikkonen spin away third place in Montreal?

Ferrari should explain Raikkonen spin – Hakkinen
(GMM) Ferrari should clarify the thorny issue of Kimi Raikkonen's Montreal spin.

That is the view of fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen, the former double world champion who thinks there have been mixed messages about the cause of the incident that stopped Raikkonen from finishing on the podium.

Amid intense speculation about Raikkonen's future, team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said immediately after the race in Canada that "We have thrown away a podium, that's the truth.

"There are no excuses," he added.

But Raikkonen, 35, protested that something "odd" happened that caused the spin, such as an engine map setting in use for the pitstops.

Officially, Arrivabene said in the team's post-race statement that the spin is "something we haven't fully understood yet.

"It may be a case of contributory negligence as he (Raikkonen) said the same thing happened last year."

Hakkinen commented: "Overall, the reason for Kimi's spin is still unclear. Ferrari has not said exactly what happened, but they probably should, to stop the speculation.

"In any case, the spin took away the third place, which was easily within reach," he said in his latest interview with Hermes.

Hakkinen said it is possible the engine mapping theory is correct.

"If a driver leaves the box and the car is in a different setting, the team needs to draw attention to it but normally the driver knows," he said.

In reality, it might be argued that Hakkinen is not reluctant to ramp up the pressure on Raikkonen, as today he is involved in the management of another Finn, Valtteri Bottas.

And Bottas, who inherited the Montreal podium due to the spin, is reportedly a leading candidate to replace Raikkonen next year.

"Once again, Valtteri demonstrated his skills. It was the work of a top driver," said Hakkinen.

"We must not forget that Ferrari currently has a faster car than Williams, nevertheless he was able to beat both Ferrari drivers across the line," he added.

McLaren 'short nose' passes crash test
(GMM) McLaren has put its major upgrade for the Austrian grand prix back on track.

We reported last week that a much-needed aerodynamic package for the MP4-30 car was in doubt because the centerpiece – a Mercedes-like 'short nose' – had repeatedly failed the mandatory FIA crash tests.

A spokesman had told us: "We are confident that our new nose box will pass its crash test in the near future."

Indeed, late last Friday the Woking based team announced on Twitter: "We can confirm that the new MP4-30 nose box has passed the FIA crash test and will be available to use from the Austrian GP."

Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz to kick-off new F1 Revolution in Mexico
A few months before Mexico makes an eagerly awaited return to the Formula One calendar, Infiniti Red Bull Racing will bring F1 power to the people with a very special demonstration run in the heart of Mexico City on Saturday 27 June, 2015.

After a 23-year absence, F1 will this November return to Mexico at the city's legendary Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and to kick off the celebrations Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz will pilot the team's double-championship winning RB7 at a specially constructed course in the city's most famous and most historic square – the Zocalo.

Officially known as Plaza de la Constitucion, the Zocalo not only features the city's cathedral but also the ruins of the great Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, with the ancient complex's Templo Mayor, the seat of Aztec power, just one block away.

Spectators at the free public event will witness three-time grand prix-winner Daniel Ricciardo and Scuderia Toro Rosso sensation Carlos Sainz, put the Renault-powered V8 through its paces around the perimeter of the 57,600m2 plaza. Infiniti's exceptional Q50, the premium automaker's flagship model, will also be on hand for some high-speed reconnaissance laps.

"I'm really looking forward to this very special trip to Mexico," said Daniel. "The demo runs in the city center should be amazing and everyone is up for putting on a really big show.

"The square looks massive so I think I should be able to really give the car a good workout," he added. "Mexico City's huge and I know that Mexican people are really into F1, so I'm looking forward to seeing just how big a crowd we can bring out on the day!"

Carlos added: "I'm really looking forward to my trip to Mexico. I have no memory of it, but my parents tell me I have actually been there before, when I was about two or three years old. Mexico City is a very interesting place to visit and what I do know is that it's always special to drive a Formula 1 car through city streets. It's a great way for people to get an idea what F1 is about before we return for the first Grand Prix to be held in Mexico in a very long time. I'll be trying to put on the best show possible for all the spectators. Come along and see us!"

Meanwhile, Horacio de la Vega, Director of The Mexico City Institute of Sports, the link between the Mexico City Government and the Formula 1 Grand Prix said: "The Infiniti Red Bull Racing event is the result of the coordinated efforts of Red Bull and the Mexican Government who want to build on the excitement ahead of the return of Formula 1 to the city. The race will be a world-class experience, unforgettable for all attendees."

Rodrigo Sanchez, Deputy Director of Marketing for the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Mexico said: "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! The Formula 1 Grand Prix of Mexico is back! An F1 street demo in the Zocalo is an unprecedented event and we have no doubt that the event will place the F1 spotlight firmly back on Mexico. CIE, (Corporacion Interamericana de Entretenimiento), the promoter of the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Mexico 2015, is determined to offer an experience that exceeds the expectations of all race fans!"

The Infiniti Red Bull Racing F1 car demo in the Zocalo is the result of a partnership between the Mexican Ministry of Tourism, the Mexican Tourism Board, the Mexican Government through the Mexico City Institute of Sports, CIE, Red Bull, Infiniti, Infinitum, Claro, Renault, Pepe Jeans, Gillette and Total Lubricants.

INFINITI RED BULL RACING show run in the Zocalo, will be held on Saturday June 27 at 10:00am in the Plaza of the Constitution of Mexico City.

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