Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Can Vettel and Ferrari take it to Mercedes in Montreal? Their race pace appears faster, but Mercedes always sandbags

    More blunders as Mercedes caught by Ferrari

  • Verstappen's father slams Massa
  • 'More power' in Honda upgrade – Boullier
  • Merhi pushing hard to keep Manor seat
  • F1 still grappling with vision for future
  • Haas doubts F1 switch for Danica Patrick
  • Sauber 'not happy' with engine situation – Nasr
  • Matching Verstappen hype 'not priority' – Sainz

More blunders as Mercedes caught by Ferrari
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton came to Canada wanting to put the Monaco blunder behind him.

It wasn't to be.

F1's official website on Friday published a full radio recording and transcript of what transpired in the ill-fated dying laps of the street race.

"Guys, that's not good," Hamilton told his engineer when informed that he would not be stopping during the safety car period.

Later, after Mercedes did decide to pit him, Hamilton added: "I've lost this race, haven't I?"

Then on Friday in Montreal, as hard rain fell down on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in second practice, Mercedes decided to send Hamilton out on track — on intermediate tires.

"Aquaplaned!" Hamilton radioed after hitting the wall.

He told reporters it "wasn't my call" to go out on track in the wet conditions, so the Daily Mail newspaper surmised it was yet "another Mercedes blunder".

Other correspondents, however, are wondering if Monaco may have been a turning point for Hamilton as he loses focus on winning his third title.

Bild newspaper claims his new girlfriend is 19-year-old Kendall Jenner, the high-profile American daughter of Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner and half-sister of Kim Kardashian West.

In contrast, the newspaper claims the grounded Sebastian Vettel's partner Hanna is pregnant with their second child.

"The fact is that Hamilton strung together a series of mistakes on the first day of practice (in Canada) that is not normal for a top driver," said Alberto Sabbatini, editor-in-chief of the Italian magazine Autosprint.

British television Sky, meanwhile, claimed one of its cameramen was pushed by a bad-tempered Hamilton as he returned to the pits following his Friday crash.

"I wouldn't read that much into it," team boss Toto Wolff insisted.

Mercedes is probably much more concerned about Ferrari's pace, as the Italian team debuts an updated engine in Canada that some believe carries 30 more horse power.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport published an analysis of the 'long run' pace from Friday practice that showed Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel clearly ahead of Mercedes.

Wolff agrees: "Ferrari is much faster than us in the race simulation. We have to analyze that now, because we had no real setup issues or anything."

Ferrari technical boss James Allison said he is happy with the engine upgrade, but warned that Mercedes may be "hiding their light under a bushel".

Verstappen's father slams Massa
(GMM) Max Verstappen's father has hit back hard at Felipe Massa.

Two weeks ago and then again in Canada, Brazilian driver Massa criticized 17-year-old rookie Verstappen following his heavy crash in Monaco.

Toro Rosso rookie Verstappen already hit back at Massa on Friday, indicating the 34-year-old was hypocritical given his similar crash in Montreal a year ago.

Now, Max's father Jos says: "It's typical Massa.

"He is always whining about someone else," Verstappen snr, who even raced against Massa towards the end of his own F1 career last decade, added.

Jos, nicknamed 'The Boss' during his racing career, continued in a column for De Telegraaf newspaper: "I think he (Massa) should be more worried about his own place.

"He is 34 years old now and had his day in formula one. In that sense I think Massa's age is a bigger issue than Max's," Verstappen charged.

'More power' in Honda upgrade – Boullier
(GMM) Eric Boullier has confirmed that Honda's Canada upgrade is delivering more power.

Earlier, McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button both warned that despite Honda having traded in some FIA performance 'tokens', the Montreal upgrade is in fact more about reliability and efficiency than "raw power".

But team boss Boullier told Spain's Marca: "Yes, there is a horse power gain, but I cannot say more."

In short, it appears McLaren is keeping the ball low at present, after all the early hype of the high-profile reunion with Honda led only to the disastrous first months at the back of the field.

Honda chief Yasuhisa Arai said this week that a podium in 2015 remains the goal, but McLaren's engineer director Matt Morris commented on Friday: "Wouldn't it be great to get on the podium?

"I think that's a long way off."

Spaniard Alonso said the team is in fact working to improve one step at a time.

"We are missing eight tenths or one second to reach the fifth or sixth position," he said on Friday, "which is where we hope to be soon.

"Mercedes is in another world," added Alonso, "but there is another little group that we want to reach."

Merhi pushing hard to keep Manor seat
(GMM) Roberto Merhi is pushing hard to keep his place at the Manor team.

Until now, the former Marussia outfit has been extending a race-by-race deal with the Spanish rookie, as it leaves an inviting door open to a sponsored driver.

Indeed, joining the team in Canada this weekend is Manor's brand new reserve Fabio Leimer, the GP2 champion of 2013.

The Swiss driver's manager Sven Mangold on Friday said he is working "day and night" to find sponsors to back Leimer's push for a race seat.

But at the same time, Merhi is looking to press his claim on the seat he has occupied in 2015 to date.

He has apparently struggled for much of the season to match teammate Will Stevens' pace.

But the Spanish sports daily Marca quoted him as saying on Friday that he is feeling more and more comfortable.

"It's a bit of everything," said Merhi. "It's the setup, I feel more confident and I can push a little more.

"Also, the team has worked very well on my car to offset the difference in speed that Stevens had in his favor in the earlier grands prix."

It is believed Merhi, who has reportedly lost some of his earlier 76 kilograms, is referring to the significant height and therefore weight difference to the diminutive Stevens.

"Now there is less of an advantage (for Stevens) and we see some mistakes," Merhi said after Friday practice in Canada.

F1 still grappling with vision for future
(GMM) F1 is still grappling with its vision of the future.

Last month, when the latest Strategy Group meeting ended, Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA jointly announced that sweeping changes are coming for 2017.

But over the Monaco and now Canadian race weekends, subsequent meetings between team bosses have chipped away at the earlier plan.

The reintroduction of refuelling, for instance, is scrapped.

"It came out that it is expensive and would not improve the racing," a spokesman for Mercedes is quoted by Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

A plans to move from the outdated 13-inch wheel rims to more road-relevant 18 or 19-inch ones has also fallen by the wayside.

"I think the broad consensus is that going to bigger wheels is not a good direction," Mercedes' Paddy Lowe said on Friday.

That move alone may be enough to dissuade Michelin from applying to be the 2017 supplier, as an official for the French marque said this week that 13-inch is "the opposite of our philosophy".

What has been broadly decided is that the F1 tires and cars will be wider in 2017.

But Mercedes' team chairman Niki Lauda is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport: "Wider cars and wider tires will not be enough".

Team boss Toto Wolff agrees: "F1 has to become more extreme.

"If a 30-year-old guy goes into a cinema and sees The Fast and the Furious, he thinks it's pretty normal to finish a race backwards," he told the Toronto Star newspaper.

"It's going to be pretty tough for us to challenge that, but you see what attracts audiences — it is definitely spectacular racing and something F1 has to shoot for," Wolff added.

Team bosses, however, are still arguing about how to implement that vision.

It is believed there are still several proposals on the table about how to handle the issue of 'free tire compound choice' for next year.

"We are all convinced that something has to change," said Lotus' Alan Permane. "But we need more time together in order to talk through the details."

Arguably the most divisive issue is 'customer cars', as small teams like Force India and Sauber rail against the idea their status as full constructors could be taken away.

After the latest meetings in Montreal, Auto Motor und Sport claims it has been decided that customer cars should only be introduced as a last and temporary resort.

In that way, big teams might license a 'franchise' to a smaller outfit, who would pay EUR 50 million for the complete two-car package.

Former Ferrari and Jaguar driver Eddie Irvine thinks F1 is paying the price for changing too many rules over the past decade.

"They've just basterdized the whole of formula one for the sake of chasing viewers that never arrived," he told Beanbagsports.

"They didn't care about the fans who knew the history and the circuits and those who really worshipped the way it was."

Sauber chief and co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn thinks a solution for the sport would be to abandon its current governance system and give the rule-making power to the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone.

"I think this would be a sensible approach," she is quoted by AFP news agency.

"The sport is about racing on one side, in which the commercial rights holder has a vested interest, and the federation on the other side, which sets the rules.

"We could take some things from the system we had before, like working groups which would consider the teams' views and where ideas or strategies could be discussed, but they (the rules) would be decided somewhere else," Kaltenborn added.

Haas doubts F1 switch for Danica Patrick
(GMM) Haas, F1's new American entrant for 2016, has played down the prospect of Danica Patrick switching from Nascar.

American Patrick, 33, is one of the highest profile racing drivers in the world, and she already drives for Gene Haas in the premier stock car series.

"It would put us on the map one way or another," Haas F1 team principal Gunther Steiner admitted to British Sky television in Canada.

"But I think Danica is quite happy where she is at the moment. For her to make the move is a big risk; I don't she really wants to do it at this stage in her career," he added.

Steiner said the right move for Haas would be to focus on finding an experienced driver for 2016 rather than a rookie American.

One name increasingly linked with Haas is Nico Hulkenberg.

The German admitted again on Friday that he is "definitely impatient" at present as he waits for struggling Force India's 'B' car to debut later this year.

At the same time, the German has diluted his focus on F1 in 2015 to also race at Le Mans, and will in fact board a plane to the scene of the fabled 24 hour event immediately after Sunday's checkered flag in Montreal.

Force India's Vijay Mallya says he wants Hulkenberg to stay in 2016, but the 27-year-old German is also keeping his options open.

"Yes," he told F1's official website, "you need to have a good idea when a possible door could open. You need to be ready."

Linking up with Haas would be one way for Hulkenberg to take a step closer to Ferrari.

The Italian team is helping Haas to prepare for 2016, and the FIA in fact recently looked into whether Haas' aero program in the Ferrari wind tunnel is above board.

Haas' Steiner said in Montreal: "We have nothing to hide."

And a Ferrari spokesman was also quoted by Speed Week: "Ferrari has agreements for the supply of engines and also a technical partnership with Haas.

"But there is no common wind tunnel program. Everything is separate and there is not even a crossover of any staff."

Sauber 'not happy' with engine situation – Nasr
(GMM) Sauber is "not happy" with its engine situation in Canada, according to team driver Felipe Nasr.

Team boss and co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn has had to deny speculation in Montreal that Sauber is not running Ferrari's new engine upgrade this weekend for financial reasons.

Rather, she said it was a strategic move.

But Sauber rookie has indicated the Hinwil based team in fact had no choice.

"The team is not happy," he is quoted by UOL Esporte.

"Monisha has said that everything we receive should be in the form of equality. It's not my question to be talking about it," Nasr added.

"The update should arrive for our team in Spa," the 22-year-old Brazilian driver said.

Matching Verstappen hype 'not priority' – Sainz
(GMM) Carlos Sainz insists he is still not bothered about playing second fiddle to his high-profile Toro Rosso teammate.

Initially in 2015, it was 17-year-old Verstappen's age and inexperience that hogged the headlines.

But now, the young Dutchman has divided paddock opinions in terms of whether his big crash in Monaco showed his courage and racing instinct, or proved that a teenager is not ready for F1.

Fellow rookie Sainz, 20, has been playing a public supporting role in 2015, but in reality he has been a match for Verstappen all season.

Sainz, in fact, has 9 points to Verstappen's 6, while the pair are 3:3 in qualifying.

Speed Week quotes the Spaniard as admitting the Verstappen hype is somewhat masking his own performance in 2015, "but I have to accept that".

"It's not the important thing," he insisted.

"For me, the important thing is that the team is thinking about me — (Red Bull official) Dr Helmut Marko and (Toro Rosso boss) Franz Tost.

"If the media and therefore the public does not have me on the radar, that is a lower priority for me," added Sainz.

He said the early races of 2015 have gone "a little better than I had imagined".

But "My goal remains the same as it was before the season — learn as much as possible, show good performance, and let the rest take care of itself," added Sainz.

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