Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Ecclestone called Danica Patrick an 'appliance' but he has yet to refer to Susie Wolff as one

    Susie Wolff feels 'far away' from F1 debut

  • Webber no longer 'at odds' with Vettel
  • McLaren hits back at 'critics' in a hurry
  • De la Rosa admits F1 career probably over
  • Lotus now ready to join 'second group'
  • Berger not surprised by Renault's V6 struggle
  • Rosberg 'must try to catch' Hamilton – Lauda
  • Ferrari not joining 'short nose' camp
  • Alonso 'dark and moody' at Ferrari – Montezemolo
  • Mateschitz 'wants Audi to enter F1' – Montezemolo

Susie Wolff feels 'far away' from F1 debut
(GMM) Susie Wolff has admitted she still feels "very far away" from the formula one grid.

Actually, the 32-year-old is much closer than others, as she will take over Valtteri Bottas' Williams on Friday morning ahead of the Spanish grand prix.

It will mark the "40th anniversary of the last time a female driver scored a world championship point in formula one," the British team said in a statement.

Wolff said: "I do feel very, very close but in the same respect very far away.

"Because when they (Williams) announced (Adrian) Sutil as the reserve, that was a clear sign that 'Yes, you're close but you are also still very far away'."

Claire Williams, who apart from Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn is the only woman in the team principals' meetings at grands prix, admits it has been a struggle to gather support from sponsors regarding the 'female' angle.

"I said (to the Williams sponsorship people) 'Let's go out there, let's really go hard at female brands'," she told Reuters.

"And not one of them (the brands) was interested," Williams added.

Mark Webber
Mark Webber

Webber no longer 'at odds' with Vettel
(GMM) Mark Webber has admitted the venom has gone from his relationship with former F1 teammate Sebastian Vettel.

The pair were teammates at Red Bull until the Australian's retirement at the end of 2013.

Webber, now a leading Le Mans prototype driver for Porsche, told a Dubai radio station it was Vettel's "trophy cabinet" that looked best after their time together.

"With that comes some tension to the friendship I suppose on the professional front and obviously that might creep into the personal stuff as well," said the 38-year-old.

Webber said the team orders affair that became known as 'Multi 21' was the "icing on the cake" for the disintegrating relationship, but "Now it's different".

"We're not competing, we're not inside the boxing ring anymore," he explained.

"We actually flew from Melbourne to Dubai after the (2015) Melbourne grand prix and were pretty much sitting together and had a good chat.

"Time's a great healer," said Webber. "When you are in there going for it and want the same territory it's very hard to come up for air, and every season rolls into one.

"We were at odds but I suppose we're not at odds when we've got our helmets off."

Interestingly, it is the now Ferrari driver Vettel's easy relationship with his current teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, that could help keep the pair together into 2016.

Finn Raikkonen confirmed to CNN: "There's no politics, if there's something wrong we can say it to each other and work it out."

McLaren hits back at 'critics' in a hurry
(GMM) McLaren has reacted "angrily" to claims it has failed to live up to the hype of its works Honda partnership.

Ahead of the fifth race of 2015 in Spain, Britain's Times newspaper said team boss Eric Boullier hit out at "critics" who "inflated expectations" that McLaren-Honda could instantly recapture the successful glory of the 80s.

For star driver Fernando Alonso's home race in Barcelona, the 2015 car and its Japanese-made engine have been upgraded, but the Spanish hero is playing down expectations.

"It will be very difficult," said Alonso, "as other teams will also have been working hard to develop their cars, but I'm hopeful that the start of the European season will be positive for us".

Indeed, Boullier has compared McLaren-Honda's challenge with that of Mercedes, who toiled for "four years" before it was ready to start dominating in 2014.

"We will win together," team supremo Ron Dennis told F1's official website, "and when we do so we'll do so dominantly.

"I don't want to put a timeframe on that prediction, because that would be foolhardy," he added.

But Alonso's former Renault teammate Jarno Trulli worries that it might take so long that the 33-year-old will never again taste champagne at the top of the podium.

"I wonder if he might win another race or championship," the Italian is quoted by Express newspaper.

"Anything can happen, but I am concerned. Fernando's situation is not ideal to win.

"McLaren is a good team but they are fighting with Ferrari and Mercedes, who are manufacturers, and that makes a big difference," Trulli added.

Former long-time McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa admits he – like many in formula one – had expected the new Honda era to get up to speed more rapidly.

"The reality is that no one expected Honda to be so far away. Not so much in performance, but above all reliability," he told Diario Sport newspaper in Spain.

"Now we are in the season, everyone is in a hurry, especially as he (Alonso) is home for his grand prix, but we have to have patience," de la Rosa added.

Asked if he thinks McLaren can win races late in 2015, he answered: "I have no idea.

"Technically, they will improve gradually, and clearly between Australia and Bahrain they have improved linearly in a very positive way, but only Honda and McLaren know how much more they will improve.

"Is it enough to win? That's hard to believe in year one," said de la Rosa.

Pedro de la Rosa
Pedro de la Rosa

De la Rosa admits F1 career probably over
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa has admitted his career in formula one appears over.

From his first test laps for Jordan in 1998 to his Ferrari role that ended last year, the 44-year-old Spaniard's F1 adventure spanned 16 years.

He raced more than 100 times for five teams, through the highly-competitive McLaren team in 2005 to the backmarker HRT, but so far in 2015 de la Rosa has not had an active role in the paddock.

"In no circumstances have I thrown in the towel," de la Rosa told the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.

"Racing is my DNA. But I am clear that my future will probably be in projects linked to other categories that are more suited to my age, such as world endurance (sports cars)," he revealed.

"We must be realistic and see that there is not much difference between GP2 and F1 now, which means F1 is not as difficult to adapt to any more.

"That is bad for the more experienced drivers like me, because without the huge leap in performance, the adaptation of young drivers now is very easy," de la Rosa said.

He also thinks that his Ferrari exit at the end of last year was connected to countryman Fernando Alonso's similar departure.

Asked if he expected Ferrari not to renew the deal, de la Rosa said: "Not expect, but I was not surprised as so many changes were made, including Fernando."

He is also among those who do not heap all the praise for Ferrari's 2015 resurgence on the departure of the 'old guard' and arrival of figures like Maurizio Arrivabene and Sebastian Vettel.

"This year Ferrari has enjoyed a great strategy that started work in 2014," said de la Rosa.

"Work on the 2015 car was started before anyone else (in F1), but that meant sacrificing 2014, and it showed in the results," he added.

Lotus now ready to join 'second group'
(GMM) Lotus thinks it is ready to join the action in the "second group" behind the title-warring Mercedes and Ferrari.

Like most teams, the Enstone camp has brought what driver Romain Grosjean refers to as a "major upgrade" for its 2015 car to Barcelona.

"Unlike last year, we now have a car that allows development," the French driver is quoted by Brazil's Globo. "I want to come up right behind (Daniel) Ricciardo.

"Our goal is to fight with Red Bull."

Australian Ricciardo, driving for Red Bull, is currently 'best of the rest' in the championship behind all of the Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams drivers.

But Williams' technical boss Pat Symonds says he is not worried about the threat posed by Lotus.

"No," he told Britain's Sky. "Like many teams, they really are quite tight on budget and therefore I think the development they'll be able to do is somewhat limited."

Lotus' deputy boss Federico Gastaldi, however, begs to differ, insisting the black and gold-liveried team is now ready to join the 'second group' in 2015.

"I believe that Williams, Red Bull and ourselves will fight for the positions behind Mercedes and Ferrari, who are still quite a long way in front," he said.

Berger not surprised by Renault's V6 struggle
(GMM) Even Sebastian Vettel would not have made a difference to Red Bull's tough season in 2015.

"In (terms of) car development, maybe," said the now Ferrari-driving German's former boss and mentor Dr Helmut Marko.

"For example, we have now changed back to the brake manufacturer that he (Vettel) always wanted to have," Red Bull chief Marko told Auto Bild.

"But with the engine problems we have, he would have been powerless too," he insisted. "I am convinced that the car is good."

Red Bull is therefore returning to the theme of earlier in 2015, when the energy drink company-owned team pointed the finger hard and angrily at Renault.

In that criticism, Marko has an ally in the form of Gerhard Berger, the F1 legend and former Toro Rosso co-owner.

"I am not at all surprised," said the Austrian, when asked about Renault's struggle to match the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari in F1's new 'power unit' era.

"Their factory is outdated. Mercedes has three times as many engineers and invests at least three times as much money," added Berger.

The situation is awkward for Red Bull in that it is reliant on Renault's power and unable to switch to the engines of its arch rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.

And even Renault is now threatening to pull out of F1 altogether.

"In that case we would have to get out (too) and sue Renault," Marko charged.

In the meantime, Vettel is now charging for the title wearing red.

"Sebastian is not gloating about our situation," Marko insists, "he is just happy that he is now having his success with Ferrari."

Lauda says Rosberg must try to catch Hamilton knowing all too well he does not have the talent
Lauda says Rosberg must try to catch Hamilton knowing all too well he does not have the talent

Rosberg 'must try to catch' Hamilton – Lauda
(GMM) Nico Rosberg is facing a tough task to get back on terms with Lewis Hamilton.

Earlier, F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss insisted that Hamilton, although a double world champion and on-form championship leader, is "not yet" a great.

But he is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick: "Hamilton is in another league. Rosberg simply has no chance."

Even Rosberg's own boss, Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, thinks the German has one of the hardest jobs in all of formula one at the moment.

"Hamilton is driving like an extra-terrestrial," the F1 legend is quoted by Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"At the moment he is on a run where everything is perfect. He makes no mistakes and does lap times that no one else can do," added Lauda.

As for Rosberg, "Of course he is frustrated. But Nico must try to catch him."

For Hamilton, it might be said that the bigger threat now is a German who wears red.

But Lauda said Mercedes remains well positioned to take on Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, especially as it is yet to spend a single in-season 'token' to upgrade its power unit.

And "Maybe Ferrari has used more tokens than us," he speculated.

In Spain this weekend, added Lauda, the real eyes will be on the respective teams' aerodynamic upgrades.

"Barcelona is one of the most challenging tracks there is," he said.

"When your car wins there, you can assume it will also be good for the next three or four races."

Ferrari not joining 'short nose' camp
(GMM) Ferrari has opted against joining the 'short nosed' camp on the 2015 grid.

Mercedes and Williams have designed their 2015 aerodynamic concepts around an ultra-short nose, and now Red Bull is hoping to make up ground from Barcelonan onwards with perhaps the most radical solution to date.

Ferrari's SF15-T, however, has a notably long front section, and according to Italy's Autosprint, a major aerodynamic upgrade for Barcelona does not include a nose-job.

"We will not see a shortened nose," reported correspondent Roberto Chinchero, "despite the evaluations done by all the teams in the championship."

He explained that both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have independently given "positive feedback" about the long-nose solution, causing engineers and designers at Maranello to "leave things as they are".

Montezemolo: Ferrari had to get rid of Alonso
Montezemolo: Ferrari had to get rid of Alonso

Alonso 'dark and moody' at Ferrari – Montezemolo
(GMM) Fernando Alonso had become "dark and moody" by the time Ferrari realized it needed a change.

That is the claim of the ousted former long-time Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who this week hit back at suggestions it was in fact his successor Sergio Marchionne who made the decisive move for Sebastian Vettel.

"The first to speak about Vettel at Ferrari was (Michael) Schumacher," he told La Repubblica newspaper.

"It was the summer when he was to replace (Felipe) Massa. He said 'Seb would be perfect for you'.

"(Stefano) Domenicali wanted him at all costs," Montezemolo continued. "He took him to my house in Bologna and he (Vettel) showed up with a box of Swiss chocolates.

"(Marco) Mattiacci continued the work, and when Marchionne saw that Alonso had become dark and moody and continually manifested distrust in the team, we decided to change," he revealed.

Montezemolo claims that Vettel has also brought a financial benefit to Maranello.

"Vettel certainly earns less than Alonso had asked for a renewal," he said. "And then (Maurizio) Arrivabene really helped to impose a new and positive climate."

Backing Montezemolo's claims that Ferrari needed the Alonso-Vettel switch is former test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

"Fernando has always said that the McLaren project is for the medium and long term," he insisted to the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport. "He knows better than anyone what he had (at Ferrari).

"But knowing as I do the atmosphere in the last months at Ferrari, it was something that needed change and that's why I always supported Fernando's decision, even if it is something that affected me," de la Rosa added.

Dietrich Mateschitz wants Audi to replace his 'lemon' Renaults
Dietrich Mateschitz wants Audi to replace his 'lemon' Renaults

Mateschitz 'wants Audi to enter F1' – Montezemolo
(GMM) Luca di Montezemolo claims Ferrari's new guard has been "lucky" to be so successful in 2015.

The Maranello marque's long-time and now former president admits that the end of his tenure following a power struggle with Sergio Marchionne was not a happy one.

He is therefore critical of how new president Marchionne and team boss Maurizio Arrivabene framed the preparation for 2015.

"In their place, I would not have argued in December that 2015 would be an ordeal because huge mistakes were made in the preparation for the new season," he said, "and that winning two races would be a miracle."

Montezemolo claims those sorts of comments were, at best, "inelegant, but it's water under the bridge."

Indeed, he also thinks Ferrari's new guard is doing a good job.

"We must thank them," said Montezemolo. "But honestly I think they had a little luck.

"This year, apart from Mercedes they have no competitors. Williams has not improved.

"Red Bull, they have imploded — a mutual friend told me that (Dietrich) Mateschitz is thinking of selling and is trying to convince Audi to come in.

"McLaren is in crisis," Montezemolo continued. "So at every race Ferrari has a podium in its pocket. But when you have luck, you also have to know how to use it.

"To me that is a merit (of Marchionne and Arrivabene)," he insisted. "So is the intelligence not to throw overboard the positive things that had been done before them."

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