Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • CART IndyCar drew almost 300,000 when they raced in Mexico City in 2002. F1 has sold out too

    Audi not interested in F1 'problems'

  • Mexico confirms 2015 grand prix sold out
  • Ecclestone still pushing for 'power unit' axe
  • Alonso eyes first points in Monaco
  • Ferrari sure upgraded car is better
  • Sainz 'even faster' than Verstappen
  • F1 'not center of universe' – Lopez
  • F1 and Le Mans 'not that different' – Hulkenberg
  • Merhi keeps Manor seat for Monaco
  • Wolff sells stake in racing company HWA
  • India not poised for F1 return

Audi not interested in F1 'problems'
(GMM) Audi has taken a step back from speculation it is contemplating a foray in formula one.

Off the back of the ever-burgeoning rumors, the VW brand's chief Rupert Stadler admitted last week that entering F1 is "an option for Audi".

But on Monday, Stadler was back-pedaling, indicating that the current state of the pinnacle of motor sport was not attractive for Audi.

"Formula one needs to solve its problems on its own," he was quoted as saying by the German daily Handelsblatt.

CART IndyCar drew so many people in Mexico City they altered the course to cut thru the soccer stadium so they can seat a lot more people.  F1 will use that same circuit configuration.
CART IndyCar drew so many people in Mexico City they altered the course to cut thru the soccer stadium so they can seat a lot more people. F1 will use that same circuit configuration.

Mexico confirms 2015 grand prix sold out
(GMM) An official of November's Mexican grand prix has confirmed reports the 2015 race is already sold out.

We reported last week that while other races, like the Red Bull-promoted Austrian grand prix, are struggling to sell tickets, Mexico sold out "within hours".

After a 23-year absence from the calendar, F1 is returning this year to the newly-refurbished circuit in Mexico City.

"We have all the tools in place to have a successful event," the race's marketing director, Rodrigo Sanchez, told Sportsbusiness Journal.

"(Mexico has) had a couple drivers in the series for a few years now, which has helped to bring a lot of momentum, and the people are excited about the sport," he added.

Sanchez said work on the circuit, headed by Hermann Tilke and costing some $200 million, will "continue through the summer" ahead of the November 1 race weekend.

He said tickets "went on sale in March and sold out in five minutes".

Tim Bampton, of the motor sport sponsorship agency JMI, confirmed that "interest among those global companies in F1 coming to Mexico is high".

"We are going to be very busy in Mexico," he added. "We've got programs for most, if not all, of our formula one clients."

Ecclestone still pushing to bring back the signature F1 'screaming' engines before these current boring and expensive power units kill the sport
Ecclestone still pushing to bring back the signature F1 'screaming' engines before these current boring and expensive power units kill the sport

Ecclestone still pushing for 'power unit' axe
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is continuing to rail against F1's modern-day engine formula.

The F1 supremo has always been opposed to the turbo V6 'power units', particularly since their mild sound, fuel restrictions and huge cost to struggling small teams became clear.

Alan Kinch, finance director at Williams, told F1 business journalists Christian Sylt and Kate Hewitt this week that moving from V8s to V6s "essentially doubled the costs", according to The Independent newspaper.

The Strategy Group met at Ecclestone's Biggin Hill airport facility last Thursday, but the 84-year-old's push to bring back loud and screaming V8s foundered.

"I want to change many things," the diminutive Briton told the latest edition of Italy's Autosprint magazine, published on Tuesday.

"Today we have a formula where the engines are the most important thing. I do not think that F1 should have engines that are so complicated.

"A friend of mine, who I will not name but who works for a big manufacturer, told me that the technical solutions on the current F1 hybrids will never be used on road cars.

"These engines do not help formula one in any way," he continued. "They do not help the show, they do not help the teams to find sponsors and investment. The teams are having to pay much more for them than they did before.

"Of course it is possible to use different engines (in F1) that are cheaper but with the same performance — but the manufacturers don't want to," said Ecclestone.

The car is 99% of the equation in F1. With the McLaren-Honda Fernando Alonso is now a backmarker
The car is 99% of the equation in F1. With the McLaren-Honda Fernando Alonso is now a backmarker

Alonso eyes first points in Monaco
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has renewed his claim that McLaren-Honda is now on the cusp of scoring its first points of 2015.

The Spaniard had headed into Barcelona recently with a similar prediction, but ultimately the race was so disappointing that teammate Jenson Button momentarily broke ranks and declared that the Woking team may not score at all this season.

"After a disappointing race, naturally it's easy to be frustrated when you step out of the car, especially when you feel you deserved more," Button now says.

"I firmly believe that we're making solid progress, which is why having a difficult race is hard to take," he added.

Alonso is also upbeat about Monaco and beyond, even declaring that the Honda-powered team might be knocking on the door of podium finishes later in 2015.

"I think we will get points in Monaco," he told Britain's Sky.

"(In Spain) our simulations until the retirement put us in ninth place, so (that) was already the first opportunity to get the points. In Monaco it will be the second," said Alonso.

Indeed, despite McLaren's apparent struggle, even the boss of the most impressive 'power unit' in F1 – the Mercedes – is impressed with Honda's progress.

"The way they are going about it, Honda are formidable," Mercedes' Andy Cowell told the BBC, "in their approach, investment and determination.

"I think they're doing the right thing. They're playing medium to long-term. They're not playing this season. This is R and D in the public domain," he added.

One of the most respected names in F1 media, however, is not sure Alonso has the "patience" to wait for success at McLaren — with a Honda official having now admitted that race wins even in 2016 will be difficult.

"I think to some degree it all depends on Fernando's patience," Nigel Roebuck, a well-known and veteran F1 journalist, told Spain's El Confidencial.

"He keeps saying 'I knew it would be hard when I came here', which is true, but with five years of frustration at Ferrari behind him, how long will he accept that?" Roebuck wondered.

"To see Fernando Alonso at the back of the grid is a joke.

"I can understand why it came to the point that he said 'I have to go somewhere else', but at the same time it must be so hard for him to see what could have been his car (the Ferrari) this year. Jesus!" Roebuck added.

Ferrari brought out upgrades in SPain but Mercedes has been sandbagging all year - holding back on upgrades until needed.  They rolled out even more upgrades in Spain than Ferrari did and smoked the Italian team
Ferrari brought out upgrades in Spain but Mercedes has been sandbagging all year – holding back on upgrades until needed. They rolled out even more upgrades in Spain than Ferrari did and smoked the Italian team

Ferrari sure upgraded car is better
(GMM) Ferrari will try again with its new bodywork package in Monaco this weekend, former double world champion Mika Hakkinen believes.

The resurgent-in-2015 team had headed to Spain with the significant upgrade and high hopes, only to find that the gap to Mercedes only blew out.

"We need to understand if it is related to the (Barcelona) track," boss Maurizio Arrivabene said, "or if it is related to us."

Indeed, Ferrari became so lost in Barcelona that Kimi Raikkonen's weekend was sacrificed as the Finn was tasked with running the old specification alongside Sebastian Vettel's new.

"That's a very difficult situation," Hakkinen, the 1998 and 1999 title winner, told his sponsor Hermes in an interview.

"Ferrari would certainly have closely analyzed things before Monaco, to see if the new parts do bring any real benefit.

"But I do believe that both drivers will from now on be using the new package," said the Finn.

At the post-Barcelona test, reserve Esteban Gutierrez was at the wheel as Ferrari conducted that analysis, and media sources confirm that the team was able to verify the expected 'numbers' promised by the wind tunnel and simulator.

The Mexican driver confirmed: "We were looking to validate the new aerodynamic package and we managed that.

"It was a case of understanding how to improve the car's setup to better suit the new solutions we ran in the last race and that's what we did," Gutierrez added.

An Italian media source told us: "Both Gutierrez and Raffaele Marciello were able to tell the team not only that the new package is better, but that it is significantly better."

Carlos Sainz Jr. looks to be even faster than the overhyped Max Verstappen
Carlos Sainz Jr. looks to be even faster than the overhyped Max Verstappen

Sainz 'even faster' than Verstappen
(GMM) Five races into his F1 career, Carlos Sainz has made an impression.

The 20-year-old arrived at Toro Rosso this year as the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion, but was totally overshadowed by his teenaged teammate Max Verstappen.

But Sainz has also been quick in 2015, earning the praise this week of Jenson Button, F1's most experienced current driver.

And now Nigel Roebuck, one of the longest-serving and most respected journalists in the paddock, agrees.

"I am impressed with him," he told Spain's El Confidencial newspaper.

"I just told (another renowned journalist) Maurice Hamilton that everyone talks about Verstappen, but in reality, Sainz has been even been faster."

Sainz, who despite being rally legend Carlos Sainz's son does not like to be called 'Junior', says he can now feel the respect of his fellow drivers.

"I do not judge another driver without first measuring myself against them, and I think it's the same for most drivers," he said.

"So after five races I think I have earned their respect and positive opinions," Sainz told the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.

Gerard Lopez
Gerard Lopez

F1 'not center of universe' – Lopez
(GMM) When it comes to the last couple of years in formula one, Gerard Lopez admits to a couple of regrets.

The Luxembourger, owner of the Lotus team, has kept a low profile in the first quarter of the 2015 season, but he says he has simply been busy with his other businesses.

It is not because he was so vocal towards the end of last year about formula one's inequitable income distribution, even hinting at race boycotts.

In fact, Lopez told Spain's El Confidencial: "Last year, in Austin, I was the first one to speak about the financial problems with the sport in general.

"If I had known that so many were going to hear it, perhaps I would have said it sooner."

The Strategy Group, which met at Bernie Ecclestone's Biggin Hill facility last Thursday, has now been tasked with coming up with cost solutions for the sport.

The other regret Lopez admits to is pushing too hard a couple of years ago, when Kimi Raikkonen began to win races for the Enstone team.

Lotus began to build itself into a much bigger outfit, leading into its competitive collapse of 2014.

"If you have ambition and a slightly competitive character – and for me it is not 'slightly', it is a lot – it is hard not to go for it, but you can become your own worst enemy," he admitted.

"What I would not do again, perhaps, is that when you are fourth or fifth, try to gamble in going for first place, as we did two years ago," said Lopez.

Arguably to survive, Lotus had to dramatically regroup, but is now rebuilding its slashed workforce and beginning to develop a much better, Mercedes-powered car.

But Lopez says he remains concerned about F1's future.

"First, it is still a great sport," he said.

"But the danger is that in formula one, we all believe that it is irreplaceable. We seem to think that it is the center of the universe, when in reality we have to adapt to what is happening outside.

"The technology that we have here is very strong. We are incredibly advanced," said Lopez.

"But the negative is that, with all of this technology, why do we have so few technological sponsors or investors? Of the ten most actively traded companies in the world, three are not technological, and the other seven are not here," he noted.

Hulkenberg says F1 cars similar to endurance cars - i.e. slow and expensive.
Hulkenberg says F1 cars similar to endurance cars – i.e. slow and expensive.

F1 and Le Mans 'not that different' – Hulkenberg
(GMM) There is "not much difference" between Nico Hulkenberg's two cars, according to the German.

The Force India driver is heading into a very busy time in his personal 2015 calendar.

He races in Monaco this weekend, then heads straight to the pre-Le Mans test, then back to his F1 cockpit in Canada, then back to the Porsche prototype for the world's most famous endurance sports car race.

Hulkenberg, 27, will then return to his Force India in Austria, at the end of the most hectic six-week period for any grand prix driver this year or in recent memory.

In 2015, he committed to the ultra-rare feat of juggling a full-time F1 career with a limited World Endurance Championship program.

But he is slightly reluctant to compare the Force India and Porsche.

"It's like apples and pears," Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport.

However, especially at a time when lap times between F1 and other series like GP2 are being feverishly contrasted, comparisons are inevitable.

At the 2015 Spa race, at which Hulkenberg competed, the best lap times were in the 1m54 range. Last year, the best F1 laps were just 5 seconds quicker than that.

"There's not that much difference," Hulkenberg admits. "In the WEC, Eau Rouge was flat."

He said the Le Mans cars are also more powerful, and boast all-wheel drive and traction control. And, unlike F1 at present, "There is no cruising around".

"The (Michelin) tires are very durable," said Hulkenberg. "You do not have to constantly think about looking after them."

No ride-buyer has brought enough money to kick Merhi out of his Manor ride
No ride-buyer has brought enough money to kick Merhi out of his Manor ride

Merhi keeps Manor seat for Monaco
(GMM) Manor is heading into the Monaco grand prix with an unchanged driver lineup.

There has been speculation that, as Roberto Merhi does not bring significant sponsorship, his race-by-race deal with the former Marussia team could end now.

The 24-year-old rookie remains committed to his Formula Renault 3.5 team Pons, and this weekend in Monaco, the series' latest race clashes with F1 on the very same famous street circuit.

Marca, the Spanish sports daily, reports that so far in 2015, Manor has given priority to its paying driver Will Stevens when it comes to "parts and strategy".

Spaniard Merhi, on the other hand, is paid mainly in the form of his airfares and hotels, Marca claimed.

But it has emerged that, ahead of Monaco, Merhi has been offered the F1 seat once again and he will therefore sit out the Formula Renault 3.5 race weekend.

"Roberto Merhi was confirmed as a regular for Manor," Pons confirmed, "so he won't be able to compete in both" races this weekend.

"Roberto will join the team for the Spa Francorchamps race," the Formula Renault 3.5 team added, referring to the May 31 weekend, which does not clash with a grand prix.

Wolff sells stake in racing company HWA
(GMM) Toto Wolff has continued to narrow his focus on formula one with Mercedes.

Since taking over as the German giant's team boss, the 43-year-old has been diluting his shareholding in the rival Williams team.

And on Tuesday it emerged that Wolff has sold his significant stake in HWA, the Mercedes-linked company involved in the German touring car series DTM.

Wolff bought the 49 per cent shareholding in 1999. HWA confirmed that founder and chairman Hans Werner Aufrecht has increased his stake in the process.

"The transaction took place in the context of the reorganization of the investment portfolio of Mr. Wolff," the company said.

India is not interested enough to pay F1 prices
India is not interested enough to pay F1 prices

India not poised for F1 return
(GMM) India is not poised to return to the F1 calendar any time soon, according to a source.

After three editions, the New Delhi race was scrapped after 2013 for reportedly financial and bureaucratic reasons.

Officials always said they were hopeful the formerly Jaypee-promoted event might return, but when the provisional 2016 calendar was leaked recently, India was not featured.

"Unless the government steps in, the return of the Indian grand prix is not feasible, let alone in 2016," the unnamed source told the New Indian Express newspaper.

"While the official line is that negotiations are happening, I don't think anyone expects the race to come back in the near future," the source added.

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