Latest F1 news in brief – Monday (Update)

UPDATE Update shown in red below.


  • The 'lemon' Renault engine can wipe the smile off the always smiling Daniel Ricciardo
    The 'lemon' Renault engine has wiped the smile off the always smiling Daniel Ricciardo

    Hockenheim not 'bad guys' after German GP axe

  • Ricciardo not committing to Red Bull yet
  • McLaren 'underestimated' Honda switch – Hamilton
  • Ecclestone 'always has upper hand' – Barcelona chief
  • Ferrari rumors 'too early' for Bottas – Massa
  • Volkswagen in F1 'would be great' – Ecclestone
  • Renault reliability has made 2015 a write-off for Red Bull – Horner
  • Alonso to miss McLaren's Barcelona test New

Hockenheim not 'bad guys' after German GP axe
(GMM) The sorry saga of the now-axed 2015 German grand prix has nothing to do with Hockenheim.

That is the claim of circuit chief Georg Seiler, after some F1 fans and even insiders reacted with pleasant surprise when it emerged at the weekend that Germany will definitely be back on the calendar next year.

But according to the Hockenheim boss, 2016 was never in doubt.

"We still have a contract for next year," he told the Swiss newspaper Blick in Barcelona, "and we will honor it."

Hockenheim only became embroiled in the 2015 saga when the originally-scheduled German GP host, the Nurburgring, ran into its now well-known ownership troubles.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone held talks with Hockenheim about standing in at short notice.

"For many people," Seiler explained, "we were now the bad guys because of what happened to the German grand prix for this year.

"But if the Nurburgring suddenly cancels and we are the only alternative, it is simply too late for us to make a reasonable organization in March," he added.

The Renault engine has defeated Ricciardo
The Renault engine has defeated Ricciardo

Ricciardo not committing to Red Bull yet
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo is not yet committing to the increasingly crisis-struck Red Bull beyond 2015.

In Barcelona, rumors that the troubled former champion team's Australian lead driver had signed a new deal for 2016 and beyond did the rounds.

"We're talking about it," Ricciardo is quoted by Sky Italia, "but it depends on how things go this year.

"For sure myself and also the team are not here to fight for seventh place," the 25-year-old said in Spain after another disappointing race.

Ricciardo, the only non-Mercedes driver to have won races last year, continued: "We will have to see what happens over the next few months and work hard to make sure we have better performance."

After former team driver Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull won every title on offer between 2010 and 2013, Red Bull is now in a deep trough.

Team boss Christian Horner on Sunday admitted 2015 is already "pretty much a write-off".

Much of the blame is being pinned on struggling engine partner Renault, who turned down the performance of its 'power units' in Spain to prevent another embarrassing spat of blow-ups.

But Horner urged the French marque to simply "go for it".

"Even if you end up using 20 engines," he said, "it is far easier to make a fast engine reliable than a reliable car fast."

But team official Dr Helmut Marko said that even if Renault does take that approach, Red Bull is unlikely to be even close to a podium finish until "Maybe the last three races".

Interestingly, the Austrian also told Kleine Zeitung newspaper that even though a major bodywork package "did not work on the track as it did in the simulator", Red Bull's drivers were also on the back foot in Spain.

"Our established guys need to look out," said Marko, referring to the Red Bull duo of Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.

"Paradoxically, the more inexperienced ones did the better job."

He is referring not only to the 17-year-old teen sensation Max Verstappen, but his rookie Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, who qualified an impressive fifth on Saturday.

"The two of them are something extraordinary," said Marko.

"I fought hard for Sainz. He did not have a lot of friends or supporters, but I'm used to that," he added.

Hamilton surprised how slow the McLaren Hondas are.  But lets remember Mercedes developed the technology used on the current F1 cars years before anyone else - the technology that has ruined F1 and doubled the cost. Did you see all the empty seats at the Spanish GP Sunday in the overhead shots?
Hamilton surprised how slow the McLaren Hondas are. But let’s remember Mercedes developed the technology used on the current F1 cars years before anyone else – the technology that has ruined F1 and doubled the cost. Did you see all the empty seats at the Spanish GP Sunday in the overhead shots?

McLaren 'underestimated' Honda switch – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says he is surprised how much his old team McLaren is struggling in 2015.

"When I saw them so lost in Australia, I thought to myself 'How can that be?'" the reigning world champion said, referring to the once-great British team.

Having been mentored and sponsored by Ron Dennis throughout his boyhood, Hamilton made his debut for the Woking team in 2007, winning his first title a year later.

Eight years on, the now-superstar Hamilton is dominating formula one with his new team, Mercedes, and speculating that McLaren "underestimated" the challenge of switching to works Honda power.

"When you think of their factory, their history, their potential, (where McLaren is now) seems impossible," Hamilton is quoted by Spain's El Pais newspaper.

"They decided to change the engine and my experience tells me that in F1 it is quite common when challenges are underestimated.

"For example, in 2009 when the double diffuser (introduced by Brawn GP) suddenly came into play, most people underestimated that.

"I love that Mercedes doesn't underestimate anything," Hamilton insisted.

"It made sense that McLaren would not be fighting to win. I am convinced that they will do so again, the question is when."

Struggling with the Woking team in 2015 is Hamilton's first McLaren teammate, Fernando Alonso, who Hamilton says deserves more than his career tally of two titles.

"You make the decisions you make," he said, "but you also need to be in the right place at the right time.

"Michael Schumacher won seven titles but I see Alonso on the same level as him in terms of talent," Hamilton added.

"He (Alonso) made his own decisions but when you look at Ferrari now, how well they are going and you think that he left when he still had a contract, you think 'My god!'" he said.

McLaren had a dismal weekend in Barcelona, including 30 laps for Jenson Button that he described as "the scariest of my life" due to handling problems.

"After today, I don't think I expect points at all this year," the 2009 world champion admitted.

Alonso, meanwhile, almost collected his front jack-man in the pits when his brakes failed.

Five races into his new McLaren adventure, the Spaniard might be forgiven for finally showing some signs of frustration.

"It seems that many people want myself and McLaren to be frustrated," he smiled to Spanish reporters on Sunday.

"The truth is that we were four and a half seconds behind in Australia and now it is two. No team in history has recovered two and a half seconds in such little time.

"Before we were racing alone and now we are racing other teams," said Alonso.

And Alonso says that despite the Barcelona blip, even more progress is looming.

But: "We are a long way off so we need to make double steps, because everyone else is improving during the season too.

"This is a very challenging project, but we are recovering well and we need to keep it up," he added.

When you negotiate with Ecclestone he does all the talking and you listen
When you negotiate with Ecclestone he does all the talking and you listen

Ecclestone 'always has upper hand' – Barcelona chief
(GMM) Race chief Sebastia Salvado says his "worst memory" in the quarter-century history of the Spanish grand prix at Barcelona features none other than Bernie Ecclestone.

Last weekend, the Circuit de Catalunya announced it has extended its deal to keep organizing the formula one race at the track in Montmelo.

But when asked by El Pais newspaper to nominate his "worst memory" of the race that now dates back to 1991, key official Sebastia Salvado answered: "The worst?

"The negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone. Have no doubt — they are tremendous."

For years, Salvado – who like Ecclestone is in his mid 80s – has been chairman of the Catalunya automobile club, and Ecclestone's main point of contact.

It has always been thought that Ecclestone and Salvado are friends, often meeting up and dining together.

"That's true," said Salvado. "And when we dine or have coffee the atmosphere is very warm and friendly.

"But when we begin to negotiate, he says 'You know we are entering another world now?' 'Yes, yes, I know', I reply.

"And then it begins. As he always has the upper hand, if you say 'Hey, here's a problem', his answer is blunt: 'It's not a problem, it's your problem'.

"I can assure you that dealing with Bernie Ecclestone is a lesson in humility. You beg, plead, insist, and from time to time he gives you a piece of bread … without cheese! And then you see what he is eating.

"Do not laugh! It's the truth," Salvado quipped.

Ferrari has its eye on Bottas
Ferrari has its eye on Bottas

Ferrari rumors 'too early' for Bottas – Massa
(GMM) All the talk about Valtteri Bottas' future has come "too early".

That is the view of Felipe Massa, the former long-time Ferrari driver who today is the rising Finnish sensation's teammate at Williams.

In the past days and weeks, 25-year-old Bottas has been increasingly linked with a switch to Ferrari, having reportedly signed a 'pre-agreement' for 2017.

Those stories were official played down in the Barcelona paddock, but – crucially – Bottas did not completely deny them, nor commit himself to Williams for the future.

But as far as 34-year-old Massa is concerned, the Bottas stories have jumped the gun.

"I think Valtteri is a fantastic talent," he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV, "and he has a chance in the future. Perhaps in Williams, perhaps somewhere else," said Massa.

"But people have begun to talk too early — it is too early to start talking two years in advance," he insisted.

"You just have to focus on this year and perhaps also the next. But it is clear that he is a real talent and he has a very good future in formula one," said Massa.

Interestingly, while Bottas continues to inspire Ferrari rumors, Massa – discarded by the Maranello team two years ago – is only three points behind, although the Finn did have to sit out Australia with his back injury.

For now, Ferrari is backing its current lineup of Sebastian Vettel alongside Kimi Raikkonen, although boss Maurizio Arrivabene said the latter Finn needs to earn his place in 2016 by continuing to perform.

"Bottas is in (the) future," the Italian told Britain's Sky in Barcelona, "and by future I mean Bottas is interesting. Like many other young drivers, he is performing very well."

Volkswagen in F1 'would be great' – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has added even more fuel to the ever-growing 'Audi-to-F1' speculation.

Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and F1 legend Gerhard Berger fuelled the rumors last week, suggesting Dietrich Mateschitz is pushing hard for the Volkswagen-owned marque to power or even buy his struggling team Red Bull.

Recently, arguably the biggest obstacle to VW's involvement was removed when chairman Ferdinand Piech – no fan of F1 supremo Ecclestone – was ousted.

What followed was Audi chairman Rupert Stadler admitting that the Ingolstadt-based marque, already with Stefano Domenicali on the books, is "looking at" an F1 foray.

When asked about the Volkswagen Group, Ecclestone has now told the Austrian news agency APA: "It would be great if they came in" to F1.

Should a VW brand like Audi enter F1, it might end all the speculation about Red Bull – currently struggling with Renault power – quitting the sport.

"They (Red Bull) won't leave," Ecclestone said. "I want to avoid that."

The 84-year-old also said he understands Red Bull's frustration with the current 'power unit' rules.

"I can understand that and I'm not happy about it either," said Ecclestone.

But as for whether a full or part-sale to Volkswagen is the solution for Red Bull, he answered: "I don't know that — you would have to ask them."

Ecclestone did, however, urge Red Bull not to over-analyze its struggle to sell as many tickets for its forthcoming Austrian grand prix this year.

Pointing to the F1 rules crisis, Dr Helmut Marko had revealed in Barcelona that ticket sales for the late June race at the Red Bull Ring are down on 2014.

"In the second year that is quite normal," Ecclestone insisted. "In the first year, when something is new, it is always easier."

Horner sneers at more Renault problems
Horner sneers at more Renault problems

Renault reliability has made 2015 a write-off for Red Bull – Horner
The engine penalties looming over Red Bull has resulted in team boss Christian Horner labelling this season a write-off after just the fifth round.

Engine supplier Renault finished its first race weekend without a major engine failure in Spain, but the two Red Bull drivers and Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen are still just one engine change away from a grid penalty this season. Red Bull has not held back in criticizing Renault this year and Horner made no exception following the Spanish Grand Prix as he urged the French manufacturer to focus on performance and forget about trying to avoid penalties.

"We are so far on the back foot with reliability anyway that, to be honest, this year is pretty much a write-off," Horner said. "You just have to go for it, even if they end up using 20 engines, it would be better to learn and make progress for next year. It would be far easier to make a fast engine reliable than to make a reliable car fast, so our philosophy has been to push performance.

"I think it is positive Renault got four engines to the finish without any white smoke, so it is step forward from previous races. Focus desperately needs to turn to performance before too long. I think they know what the deficit is. The question is how are they going to make that up. They have things in the pipeline and things for later in the year but it is all a work in progress. From a team point of view we want it as soon as possible, obviously Renault is nervous about reliability so it will certainly be second-half of the year before we see anything significant."

Asked if he was concerned about junior team Toro Rosso outperforming Red Bull in qualifying this weekend, Horner added: "I think it is very easy to take snapshots. You have to look at the season. Don't take anything away from Toro Rosso, they are doing a good job. They are not happy with where they are, if they had 80-90BHP more they would be in a better position, as would we."

Alonso to miss McLaren's Barcelona test
British test driver Oliver Turvey will take the place of Fernando Alonso at one of the two days of testing set to take place in Barcelona this week.

On Monday morning McLaren confirmed Turvey will kick of proceedings on Tuesday, before Jenson Button drives the MP4-30 on Wednesday. One day of testing has to be given up to a young driver, which is why Alonso will be absent on home soil, the scene of his bizarre winter testing crash in February.

Button finished 16th at the Spanish Grand Prix after what he admitted were 30 of the scariest laps of his life. Alonso retired from the race with a brake failure, meaning the team is still yet to score a point since returning to Honda power in 2015.

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