Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Raikkonen can hope to win a race all he wants, but there is no way Ferrari is beating the Mercedes advantage

    Boss Mallya to watch Hulkenberg at Le Mans

  • Raikkonen hopes to win a race in 2015
  • Rosberg plays down Hamilton 'inequality' story
  • Schumacher speculation 'not right' – Haug
  • Renault now ready to power up in 2015
  • McLaren 'short nose' fails FIA crash tests
  • Force India missed Mercedes engine upgrade
  • Struggling Ricciardo gets new chassis for Austria
  • Worried Vettel says F1 races 'too complicated'
  • McLaren hints at Mercedes token compromise

Boss Mallya to watch Hulkenberg at Le Mans
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg wasted no time after the Canadian grand prix as he looked ahead to his next race outing.

The German is completing the ultra-rare feat in 2015 of combining a full-time F1 seat with a program to contest the fabled Le Mans 24 hours.

From the Le Mans pitlane on Tuesday, Hulkenberg posted on Twitter a 'selfie' with his Porsche prototype and the caption "She's ready!"

An interested spectator at Le Mans this weekend will be Hulkenberg's Force India boss Vijay Mallya, who will be trackside in a motor home, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.

"Vijay said he would only release me for the race if he could come and watch," Hulkenberg joked.

Fernando Alonso also wanted to combine F1 with Le Mans this year, but McLaren-Honda was not as keen as Mallya to allow it to happen.

The Spaniard, who watched the race last year, was reportedly disappointed.

"The technology is very high," he said. "You can do two stints on one set of tires, with the laptimes going up by more than a second.

"We only dream about that in formula one," admitted Alonso.

The very fact that the likes of Hulkenberg, Alonso and full-time Porsche driver Mark Webber rate Le Mans so highly is an indictment of the state of F1 at present.

Sunday's Canadian grand prix was condemned by the international media, with not even the usually-customary safety car spicing up the racing action.

"Some would say they (the drivers) weren't pushing hard enough to crash but that's too harsh," former F1 driver turned commentator for British television Sky said.

But also critical is another British driver-turned-commentator, David Coulthard.

"The sad reality is that the drivers are not enjoying the current F1," he wrote in a column for the BBC.

One such driver, said Coulthard, is Alonso.

"In the last two races he has said two things that really hit home," he said. "The first was that the last time he was tested to his limit mentally and physically in a grand prix was 10 years ago.

"The second was that driving the current cars is more about systems management than it is about driving skill," Coulthard added.

"Of course, drivers do not have all the answers. But if you are not challenging the best guys, you are short-changing both them and the audience."

That dwindling audience is being most starkly felt in Germany.

The 2015 race has been axed, and now the host free-to-air broadcaster RTL is reportedly considering not renewing its deal with Bernie Ecclestone.

The German television ratings from Canada were starkly depressing, with the F1 audience reportedly smaller even than a women's football game between Germany and the Ivory Coast.

And in neighboring Austria, promoter Red Bull is struggling to sell tickets for next weekend's race.

"I do not quite understand what is happening," Austrian F1 legend Gerhard Berger told Germany's Sky.

"In Germany there is no race and yet Sebastian Vettel is near the front in a Ferrari.

"I do not know what has caused the decline in interest, but it is a pity because Red Bull organizes a great event."

Another Austrian, Niki Lauda, is also confused.

"Look at Canada," he said. "I don't think the people are very different in Montreal and yet they sold 12 per cent more tickets than they did last year — the stands were full.

"No one was complaining about boring races or quiet engines — they were just excited about the grand prix," the Mercedes team chairman added.

Raikkonen can dream can't he?

Raikkonen hopes to win a race in 2015
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen is hoping to win at least one race in 2015.

After boss Maurizio Arrivabene gave the Finn "qualifying homework" to do after Monaco, Raikkonen duly lined up third on the grid in Montreal.

But at the same time, Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel suffered technical problems and also a further grid demotion for a red flag infraction in practice.

And then in the race, Raikkonen angered Arrivabene by spinning and "throwing away" a podium.

Only later did Arrivabene acknowledge that a technical issue contributed to the spin.

"Everything indicates that a technical problem was the cause, as we saw from the data that the throttle behaved in a brutal way," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"Kimi's race pace was good," Arrivabene insisted.

However, a Ferrari insider said the timing of Raikkonen's spin was nonetheless bad, as he is trying to convince Arrivabene to extend his contract for 2016.

"Even if the technology was a factor, the mistake came at the most inconvenient time possible," the insider was quoted as saying.

"Ferrari is giving a lot of thought to the issue of the second driver for 2016."

For his part, Raikkonen said he remains focused on 2015, telling Sky Italia this week: "I would be happy to win at least one race by the end of the season.

"I'm sure we can improve, to be more competitive and catch Mercedes, but it's hard to say. We need time," Raikkonen added.

Finally, Raikkonen admitted that he hopes his 5-month-old son Robin chooses a career other than formula one.

"Why?" Raikkonen said. "Because when I retire, I don't want to be coming back here (to the paddock)."

Hopeless for hapless Rosberg

Rosberg plays down Hamilton 'inequality' story
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has played down a controversy about an episode of apparent 'radio coaching' inequality during the Canadian grand prix.

During the Montreal race, Lewis Hamilton's engineer told the British driver that while his Mercedes teammate Rosberg has no problems with fuel consumption, the German's brake situation was "critical".

But when Rosberg asked about the state of Hamilton's car, his engineer replied that the 'radio coaching' ban meant he was not allowed to answer.

"Ugh," Rosberg replied.

Told that the episode might imply favoritism towards Hamilton, team boss Toto Wolff insisted: "We have already clarified the matter internally.

"The statement from Lewis' engineer had no impact on the race. I stress once again: the drivers have absolutely equal treatment."

In his latest column for Bild newspaper, Rosberg has backed Wolff's claim that both Mercedes drivers are treated equally.

"There has been a lot of debate about whether Lewis received more information than me during our battle," he said.

"But there is definitely no difference in how the team treated us as drivers," Rosberg insisted, "no matter what they said to Lewis" during the race.

"I have 100 per cent confidence in the team," he added.

He said that level of equality actually makes it harder for him to fight Hamilton during a race.

"People often ask me why I don't just push a bit harder and overtake Lewis," said Rosberg.

"But you can't forget that my main rival has exactly the same car as me, and also that it is always possible for the other side to look at my settings and copy them.

"In this situation, I just need to be ahead on Saturday, as qualifying is now more important than ever," he added.

Schumacher speculation 'not right' – Haug
(GMM) Norbert Haug says he has his "fingers crossed" for his old friend Michael Schumacher.

The hunger in the media for news about the F1 legend is so strong that it emerged recently that paparazzi fly helicopters and even camera 'drones' above his mansion on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Official information about the health and condition of the former Ferrari and Mercedes driver has been closely guarded following his late 2013 skiing crash, but manager Sabine Kehm says the 46-year-old has always been fiercely private.

"You have to rely on what his management and family say," Haug, the former Mercedes motor racing vice-president, told Austrian broadcaster Servus TV this week.

"Speculating is not right," the German, whose relationship and career with Schumacher dates back decades, added.

"One can only pray and keep our fingers crossed," he added.

Here comes Renault
Here comes Renault

Renault now ready to power up in 2015
(GMM) Renault is now set to turn its attention to speeding up in formula one.

Amid ever-growing speculation about Renault's future in the sport, the highest placed car powered by a French engine in Canada was Daniil Kvyat — in ninth place and a lap down.

"It's the best we could do," the Red Bull driver is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

"Obviously we have to improve in many areas, including the power unit."

Indeed, so far in 2015, Renault has been most concerned about solving repeated reliability problems with its turbo V6 unit.

"For the third race in a row we have not experienced any reliability worries," said Cyril Abiteboul, Renault's F1 chief, after Canada.

In Canada, the latest specification of the engine was fitted to Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso, costing him a penalty to add on top of his Monaco crash demotion.

It was reliable, but the Dutchman is quoted by De Telegraaf as saying it was still significantly down on power.

"Austria will be another difficult race," he predicted.

But more power is coming, Abiteboul says. With reliability seemingly now under control, "We can move our attention to performance".

Indeed, Renault has more in-season performance 'tokens' in its pocket than any other manufacturer.

Ferrari and Honda spent their first tokens ahead of Canada, Mercedes improved the most during the winter period, while Renault still has 12 tokens to deploy.

The stakes are high, the Spanish daily El Mundo Deportivo claims.

"There is no future for Renault in F1 if we cannot develop a competitive engine," Abiteboul reportedly warned.

McLaren short nose fails crash test
McLaren short nose fails crash test

McLaren 'short nose' fails FIA crash tests
(GMM) The centerpiece of McLaren's aerodynamic upgrade for the Austrian grand prix next weekend is yet to receive the green light.

Montreal was a notably bleak weekend for the Honda-powered team, but the bright side was that a raft of improvements are in the pipeline for Austria.

"There is a new engine package, a lot of things coming for Austria," confirmed Jenson Button.

"It will be very different apart from the color scheme."

Indeed, teams have been increasingly turning towards the so-called 'short nose' aerodynamic concept in 2015.

But Red Bull, for one, faced a long delay in getting its version over the hurdle of the FIA's mandatory crash tests.

And international reports this week claim the 'short nose' concept for McLaren's MP4-30 has now failed the front-end tests up to five separate times.

The latest failure was reportedly at the UK's Cranfield facility last week.

A McLaren spokesman told us: "Some significant aero updates require crash testing. They rarely pass their crash tests first time around.

"We are confident that our new nose box will pass its crash test in the near future," he added.

Force India missed Mercedes engine upgrade
(GMM) Force India had to do without Mercedes' latest engine upgrade in Canada, it has emerged.

Without having to trade in any of its in-season performance 'tokens', the German marque brought an upgraded power unit to Montreal.

The rumor in the paddock is that while not actually more powerful, the reliability fixes mean the engine could now be 'turned up' to a higher performance mode.

"We can turn it up or turn it down whenever we need to," Lewis Hamilton said.

It is believed the new units were fitted to the Mercedes, Williams and Lotus cars in Canada.

But not the Force India. Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims that Sergio Perez has not had a single engine change so far in 2015, meaning his 'engine 1' now has almost 4800 kilometers on the odometer after Canada.

"We had some problems with the fuel system and could not build eight engines in time," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

"Force India was selected for stage 2 because their engines looked the best in terms of damage."

Wolff said Force India will get the Montreal upgrade in Austria.

Ricciardo to get new chassis
Ricciardo to get new chassis

Struggling Ricciardo gets new chassis for Austria
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo hopes a new chassis will solve his mysterious lack of performance in the Canadian grand prix.

The Australian struggled to bare his famous wide grin throughout the Montreal weekend as he was comprehensively out-performed by Red Bull teammate Daniil Kvyat.

"I don't know. It was my worst race," said Ricciardo when asked by Auto Motor und Sport what happened.

"It was like two years ago when (Jean-Eric) Vergne was so much faster than me here and we didn't know why.

"A year later I won, and now I'm back where I was in 2013.

"I can still laugh because I know that there was something fundamentally wrong with the car," Ricciardo explained. "I'm not a second slower than Kvyat and I haven't suddenly forgotten how to drive."

He admitted, however, that Red Bull did not immediately find the cause of the problem, but Ricciardo said it is possible there is something wrong with his chassis.

"We will know in Austria," said Ricciardo, "as I am scheduled to get a new chassis there.

"I don't think that it's the chassis, as I've never been wild with the curbs or hit the wall or anything — there is nothing that could explain that sort of damage."

Vettel says people don't come to watch an F1 parade to be confused
Vettel says people don't come to watch an F1 parade to be confused

Worried Vettel says F1 races 'too complicated'
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has admitted he is worried about the future of formula one.

The latest alarming news is from the Ferrari driver's native Germany, where on Sunday the TV ratings for the Canadian grand prix were outpaced by a women's football game.

But Vettel tells Sport Bild magazine: "The best indicator is the spectators at the track, and we can see that the numbers are no longer as high as they were."

It is one reason the F1 drivers' union GPDA, of which Vettel is a director, commissioned a global online survey, asking the fans what they think of F1.

He said the results will be fed back to the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone.

Vettel said he remains a "big fan" of F1, but is concerned that the races "have become too complicated".

"I have to wonder how anyone can really follow it if they are not involved in formula one seven days a week, as I am," the quadruple world champion added.

"Most importantly," he said, "is that the tickets are just too expensive. How can a normal family afford to go to the circuits anymore?" Vettel wondered.

He said if it was up to him, he would make the F1 cars "faster again, whether that is through more power and downforce or better tires".

"It must be a challenge again to tame these beasts, so that the wheat is separated from the chaff," added Vettel.

McLaren suggests that Mercedes may be open to compromise on allowing in-season engine development next year.

McLaren hints at Mercedes token compromise
As Motorsport.com revealed last week, Mercedes' rivals are pushing for a change of the rules for 2016 after the FIA closed off a loophole to allow engine improvement during the campaign.

However, with a rule amendment needing unanimous support, Mercedes could stand firm and say the rules need to stand, as it did last year.

It was only a direct challenge to the FIA over an interpretation of the regulations that opened the door for use of in-season development in 2015.

Mercedes concerned

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has revealed, however, that there have been indications from Mercedes' senior management of a willingness to compromise.

When asked if he believed Mercedes would listen to the calls for change, he said: "Yes. I think they are already.

"And they are concerned. Speaking to Toto Wolff and Niki [Lauda], they are concerned about F1 itself. So I am sure there is some room for change."

Renault future in doubt

The issue of tokens has now become a key battleground between engine makers, as the performance gap between the four manufacturers appears to be quite large.

Renault's future has been thrown into doubt by Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who suggested that the French car manufacturer would not stick around if it could not keep developing its power unit.

Boullier said Honda was equally keen for the rules to be freed up.

"Our position is clear, we want to have as much room [for development] as possible," he said.

"Take our situation; obviously with the chassis you can develop it as you want. With the engine, you are locked into a situation when engine manufacturers cannot recover or cannot compete fairly.

"The regulations are the same for everybody and everybody knew the regulations before they entered F1, but there needs to be a degree of flexibility for that to change." Jonathan Noble/Motorsport.com

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