Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Bianchi family coming to terms that they may lose their son

    Ecclestone faces $1.6 billion tax bill

  • Surveys in vogue as F1 asks fans for help
  • Bianchi family must consider 'death' – father
  • Race to be tire supplier in 2017 begins
  • Force India 'B' car failed crash test – report
  • Alonso struggling to admit McLaren 'mistake' – Massa
  • Now Hulkenberg linked with Ferrari move
  • Vettel featured in giant cigarette ads
  • Verstappen steals the show in Monaco
  • DMG MORI Extends Its Technology Partnership With Infiniti Red Bull Racing

Ecclestone faces $1.6 billion tax bill
(GMM) British tax authorities have resumed a $1.6 billion pursuit of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Bloomberg reports that the 84-year-old initially settled the dispute over his family trust Bambino.

"The tax and interest demanded as a result of the decision is over 1 billion pounds," London judge Kenneth Parker declared on Thursday.

The tax authorities claim Ecclestone "withheld information" when he reached the 2008 settlement that subsequently came to light during the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption trial last year, Bloomberg explained.

A spokesman for Ecclestone said the F1 chief executive and billionaire is now exploring "other legal avenues" to get the authorities to honor the settlement.

"I've never, ever, ever had anything to do with the trust," Ecclestone said by telephone in Monaco.

Surveys in vogue as F1 asks fans for help
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone gave the F1 drivers his support as they launched a global fan survey in Monaco.

The F1 supremo was photographed with the drivers outside his motor home as they advertised the online survey, asking fans what they think of the sport.

"The people, the fans, must be asked what they think," Grand Prix Drivers' Association chairman Alex Wurz told Austrian television ORF.

It is a period of intense introspection in general for F1, with the drivers reportedly most concerned that fans are also being turned off by cars that are being rivalled for pace in fabled Monaco by the support series GP2.

"We want to see the fastest cars, even if there is less overtaking," Wurz insisted.

Also launched this week by a specialist British publishing house was another F1 fan survey, and within 24 hours there had already been 25,000 responses.

As for the drivers' survey, "The drivers are the essential part of the show so for them to be involved and get engaged is a good thing," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

A week ago, the Strategy Group met at Ecclestone's Biggin Hill airport facility, declaring afterwards that a raft of decisions about the future – including the return of refuelling – had been agreed.

But Red Bull chief Christian Horner said in Monaco: "I wouldn't say that we nailed down a whole load of decisions, but (there was) certainly a lot of discussion about the relevant topics at this point in time."

Wolff agreed that the meeting had been "good".

"I must have been at a different meeting," Force India's surly chief Bob Fernley said on Thursday.

"After 18 months I think we failed totally to agree on any form of cost control."

Amid calls for Ecclestone to be re-installed as the F1 'dictator', Horner agreed that the effectiveness of the Strategy Group should now be questioned.

"I think Bernie and Jean (Todt) need to get together and say 'This is what we want the product to be, this is how it needs to be governed' and then give us the entry form and see if we want to enter or not," he declared.

Jules Bianchi's parents Philippe And Christine
Jules Bianchi's parents Philippe And Christine

Bianchi family must consider 'death' – father
(GMM) Jules Bianchi's father has admitted the family is having to consider the idea of the unconscious F1 driver's death.

Eight months after the Frenchman's horror crash at Suzuka, Bianchi is on the sport's mind this weekend as it recalls his points-scoring and Manor-saving feats of Monaco a year ago.

Jules lies in a hospital bed just half an hour from Monaco, in his native Nice, having never woken up since crashing into a recovery vehicle in Japan last October.

Now, his grandfather Mauro Bianchi admits: "Is he coming back? How will he be? That is what hurts us the most."

Bianchi's father Philippe says the family is even having to face the idea that Jules could die.

"Every day the phone is by our side," he told the French broadcaster Canal Plus on Thursday.

"When we get up, we think of Jules' life but we think also of his death.

"We have to think about death because we are in a situation where we know a lot of things can happen.

"In neurological terms, I'm not sure he is able to do much now. It's terrible. Jules' neurological progress is not what we would like it to be," Mr. Bianchi added.

Pirelli will have some competition for the F1 tire contract in 2017
Pirelli will have some competition for the F1 tire contract in 2017

Race to be tire supplier in 2017 begins
(GMM) F1's governing body has launched the official tender process for the selection of the tire supplier in 2017 and beyond.

Often controversially, Pirelli has been the sole supplier since 2011, but in recent days the former F1 manufacturer Michelin admitted it is considering a return.

Both Pirelli and Michelin appear to back moves to introduce low-profile, 18-inch tires for 2017. Former F1 driver and well-known British broadcaster Martin Brundle will test Pirelli's prototype version on a GP2 car in Monaco.

The FIA confirmed it does not "preclude an increase in diameter" for 2017, while the introduction of wider tires is also likely.

"We're looking forward to demonstrating a new GP2 tire concept tomorrow," said Pirelli's Paul Hembery, "which underlines our capacity to produce a variety of different tire solutions to meet any request."

Regarding the 2017 tender, Pirelli appears to be fighting Michelin at present, but that does not mean they will go wheel-to-wheel in a 'tire war'.

"At the moment," said Hembery in Monaco, "the tender will be for a single supplier.

"So (regarding) 2017, I might be here or I might be sat on a boat having some champagne and watching it.

"It (the tender) is a phase where the FIA will evaluate the technical competences of people who want to supply and then there's the important bit which is the commercial aspect with the promoter.

"So there's a timetable set out and we will obviously know before the end of the year," Hembery added.

Before Pirelli's current contract runs out, the Italian marque now appears open to giving teams 'free choice' in 2016 regarding the selection of compounds for each race weekend.

Earlier, Hembery was opposed to the idea that was first proposed by Force India.

But he said in Monaco: "We're working in that regard with Charlie (Whiting) and the FIA to come up with a proposal that gives us a level of safety in the choices made and also to provide something interesting for the fans."

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims the current idea is for Pirelli to expand its range from four to six compounds, giving it the flexibility to 'block' the use of the most inappropriate tires at certain races.

It means that, for example at Monza, teams would not be able to choose the 'super soft', for safety reasons.

Hembery said: "The teams would still have enough choice to go for a more aggressive version."

Force India 'B' car failed test
Force India 'B' car failed test

Force India 'B' car failed crash test – report
(GMM) The debut of Force India's much-needed 'B' car in Austria is now in doubt.

Earlier, the struggling Silverstone based team's 2015 car was delayed over the winter due to supplier and financial trouble.

In the form of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, Force India now has a pair of disappointed drivers who are waiting until mid-season for a performance boost from a substantially-upgraded 'B' spec.

A debut in Austria was initially reported, but Mexican Perez subsequently explained that the British grand prix in July is now the more realistic race target.

Deputy team boss Bob Fernley said in Monaco: "Hopefully it's still on target for us for Austria. I would like to think we could do it for the race but it's most likely going to be the (post-race) test."

Before the 'B' car – reportedly with a Williams-style short nose – gets the green light, it has to pass the FIA's mandatory crash test.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that, on its first try, the car failed.

"Only just," confirmed technical boss Andy Green. Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt warned: "Another failure could delay the debut of the B version."

Massa says Alonso blew it, but in reality he was forced out of Ferrari by Vettel
Massa says Alonso blew it, but in reality he was forced out of Ferrari by Vettel

Alonso struggling to admit McLaren 'mistake' – Massa
(GMM) Felipe Massa says his former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso made a clear "mistake" in leaving the Italian team.

Actually, Alonso insists he has no regrets about joining McLaren-Honda, as beating dominant Mercedes requires a new and innovative long-term project.

And the Spaniard has also said that his Ferrari successor Sebastian Vettel only won in Malaysia due to "circumstances", and that while the Maranello team might be better in 2015, it is still a long way from Mercedes.

Asked if he agrees with Alonso's reasoning, Massa said in Monaco: "Of course not.

"I think Alonso had to invent some reasons to justify a change that has certainly been more negative than positive," he told Brazil's Globo Esporte.

"Ferrari really has improved. I think it is difficult sometimes to admit when you've made a mistake," added Massa, who was Alonso's Ferrari teammate until the end of 2013.

And the Brazilian, who now drives for Williams, said the car is not the only change Ferrari has undergone in the last months.

"Ferrari changed everything!" said Massa. "The president, the team boss — it's a different team."

Asked if the current regime might have seen him even retain his own seat at Ferrari, he admitted: "Maybe yes."

But Massa says he is so happy at Williams now that he is willing to stay for years. Ferrari, on the other hand, reportedly has its eye on Valtteri Bottas, who is Massa's current teammate.

Massa said: "It's something he can do in the future, but I don't think so for next year, because Williams has a contract option on him.

"But for the future, Ferrari is more competitive; it has shown potential to win and fight again for the championship. If he (Bottas) has a good proposal to go to Ferrari, why not?" he added.

Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg

Now Hulkenberg linked with Ferrari move
(GMM) The latest name linked with a move to Ferrari is Nico Hulkenberg.

Before Kimi Raikkonen was signed for 2014, 27-year-old German Hulkenberg was linked with a move to the fabled Italian team.

Instead, Hulkenberg is now struggling with Force India, and showing his apparent malcontent by splitting his attention in 2015 between F1 and Le Mans.

"I am a bit disappointed I am not where I want to be," he admitted in Monaco. "I want to be in a car that is capable of winning and fighting for the title."

Now, his name has re-emerged in connection with Ferrari, as the resurgent Maranello team ponders whether to take up the 'option' in Raikkonen's contract.

"(Valtteri) Bottas and Hulkenberg?" Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene is quoted as saying by the influential La Gazzetta dello Sport in Monaco.

"There are so many drivers in the paddock, so to name names is completely wrong.

"Let's concentrate on Kimi as we all hope that he continues as he is doing now, because if you look at the last grands prix, at some times Kimi was the fastest of all," Arrivabene added.

"We already have very good drivers," said the Italian, referring also to Sebastian Vettel.

As for Raikkonen, Arrivabene reportedly told Sky Italia: "We have a fast and very, very good driver, which we are satisfied with.

"I am very happy with how things are going with Kimi, and the enthusiasm that he brings to the team, even though he is called 'the Iceman'.

"When the time comes we will talk with the president, and in one way or another, with his blessing, we will make an announcement," he promised.

Vettel Marlboro ads in Monaco
Vettel Marlboro ads in Monaco

Vettel featured in giant cigarette ads
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel says he has no problem being featured as the new 'Marlboro man'.

In many countries, and in formula one in general, tobacco advertising is strictly banned.

But not in Monaco, the micro-state and famous tax haven.

And just days after it emerged that Ferrari has renewed its low-profile yet multi-million euro sponsorship deal with Philip Morris, adverts proclaiming the link between Ferrari, Marlboro and Vettel are plastered around the Principality., the blog of German F1 correspondent Ralf Bach, published images of the giant ads, featuring the Marlboro logo, Vettel's face and helmet, and the phrases 'Red is action' and 'Red is inspiration'.

When confronted with the images, Vettel said: "I think everyone already knows who our biggest sponsor is."

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Verstappen steals the show in Monaco
(GMM) Max Verstappen is threatening to steal the show in Monaco.

Already hailed by mentor Dr Helmut Marko as a 'new Senna', the 17-year-old sensation appeared to fulfil that promise on Thursday by almost beating world champion Lewis Hamilton to the best time in the dry first practice session.

"For a guy that can't rent a hire car yet, that's enormously impressive," said Christian Horner.

Crucially, Horner is not the young Dutchman's team boss, but the boss of Red Bull's senior team. Currently, Verstappen drives for the junior squad Toro Rosso.

This year, the 2014 Toro Rosso sensation Daniil Kvyat was promoted to the senior seat after just a single season on the grid, but in 2015 he has struggled so far.

Ominously, the notoriously unapologetic chief of Red Bull's driver program, Austrian Marko, is already starting to sound critical of Kvyat's progress.

Who is faster, Verstappen or his teammate Sainz Jr.?
Who is faster, Verstappen or his teammate Sainz Jr.?

"Helmut has always had a habit of calling things as they are," said Horner, but the Briton also defended the struggling Russian Kvyat.

"He's young, he's developing all the time. We can see a great deal of potential in him," Horner insisted.

But also noteworthy is that Verstappen's early form has caught the eye of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who is famous for pushing the stars of the show into the best cars possible.

"I am really happy with him," the 84-year-old said in Monaco.

"He and Carlos Sainz are doing a bloody good job. Verstappen is very impressive," Ecclestone added.

DMG MORI Extends Its Technology Partnership With Infiniti Red Bull Racing
Infiniti Red Bull Racing is pleased to announce the extension of their partnership with long standing technology partner DMG MORI. As an ‘Innovation Partner’, DMG DORI is a key supplier of Machines and Services for the manufacturing facility at Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s headquarters based in Milton Keynes, UK. The partnership has been extended until the end of 2017.

Since the partnership began in 2004, DMG MORI has worked closely with Infiniti Red Bull Racing to select the best technological equipment for an optimum utilization. The range of machinery at Infiniti Red Bull Racing currently includes 22 CNC-machines from DMG MORI and the machines are used to produce complex high-tech parts for the Team’s Formula One car and are therefore an important contribution to the success of the team.

Team Principal, Christian Horner, said: "The partnership renewal with DMG MORI reinforces the longstanding relationship we have had as partners throughout our journey in the sport. DMG MORI has worked hard to help us grow our manufacturing capabilities over the past 10 years. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to continue this partnership into a new and exciting era of the sport. This is another example of Infiniti Red Bull Racing seeking expertise from a class-leading supplier to help us improve our operation."

DMG MORI offers innovative high-tech machine tools and services, as well as software and energy solutions. DMG MORI's expansion of its machine tool sector is based on a consistent focus on high-growth industries such as the automotive, aerospace, medical technology and power engineering sectors. The automotive industry is one of the most important sectors for DMG MORI.

"Our innovative machine tools are at the forefront of the machine tool industry. Technology is key to success and, cutting-edge innovations are fundamental to prevail in Formula One. We are proud to continue our partnership with Infiniti Red Bull Racing and to support the Team," says Dr. Thorsten Schmidt, member of the board of DMG MORI SEIKI Aktiengesellschaft.

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