Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Lauda hopes to re-sign Hamilton by Monaco

    Lauda insists 'no fifth engine' in 2015

  • Lopez urges team support for 'viable future'
  • Juncadella not sorry he left Force India
  • Vettel a F1 great, Hamilton 'not yet' – Moss
  • No quick fix for McLaren – Hakkinen
  • Hakkinen admits 'wrong' about Verstappen
  • Many drivers bring sponsors to F1 – Nasr
  • Lauda tips Mercedes to keep 'small' advantage
  • Red Bull now targeting third-best Williams
  • Mercedes does not want to dominate – Briatore
  • Lauda now targets Monaco for Hamilton contract
  • Honda updates focused on drivability, reliability New
  • Haas team wants drivers in place by September New
  • McLaren confirms 'graphite-grey' livery change New

Lauda insists 'no fifth engine' in 2015
(GMM) Drivers will not be allowed to use a fifth 'power unit' in 2015 and escape penalty, according to Niki Lauda.

That is despite Red Bull team boss Christian Horner saying less than two weeks ago that the change to the 'four engines per season' rule had been agreed "unanimously" in March.

"That was all the teams, including Bernie Ecclestone," he said, adding that the matter only had to be rubber-stamped through a formal fax vote.

But it seems Mercedes has changed its mind.

"There will be no fifth engine," team chairman and F1 legend Lauda told the Austrian news agency APA.

"You cannot change the regulations in the middle of a season," he insisted.

The obvious conclusion is that, fearing the challenge posed by a resurgent Ferrari, Mercedes is exercising its right to veto the tweak so as to protect its advantage with the best and most reliable turbo V6 on the grid.

Former two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen was asked by Spanish reporters on Monday if he thinks the rules should be changed in order to spice up the sport in light of Mercedes' dominance.

"That's a difficult question," the Finn is quoted by the sports daily Marca, "as I am an ambassador for Mercedes.

"If there are teams that are not so close to them, it is difficult but not impossible to catch them, as Ferrari is showing," Hakkinen added.

So for now, Mercedes is the master of the current 'four engines per season' formula — and still with performance development 'tokens' up its sleeve.

"Our plan (for Barcelona) is that we will use the same version (of the engine) as we did in the first four races," a team spokesman confirmed to Brazil's Globo.

Lopez urges team support for 'viable future'
(GMM) Gerard Lopez, the Lotus team owner, has urged other formula one outfits to "stand together" to make the sport more sustainable.

Caterham has collapsed, Marussia (now Manor) almost followed suit and midfield teams including Lotus, Force India and Sauber's financial problems have been well documented.

Even the competitive Williams recorded a $50 million loss last year, while Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims that "even McLaren" could be in trouble if its Bahraini investors pull out.

"We must now all stand together so that we can develop a concept for the future that is viable," Lopez is quoted as saying.

"The more of us who get behind the plan, the sooner we can get it through."

The Luxembourger may be referring to the proposal made by former FIA president Max Mosley, whereby teams agreeing to a $100 million budget cap are given more rules freedom.

It is already publicly supported by Sauber.

The issue will clearly be front-and-center when the powerful Strategy Group teams sit down next Thursday.

"Everybody must be anxious that the meeting provides a result," Lopez continued. "Further procrastination would be dangerous."

Juncadella not sorry he left Force India
(GMM) Former Force India reserve Daniel Juncadella says he does not regret leaving the Silverstone based team.

Last year, the young Spaniard worked with the Mercedes-powered team, attending races and occasionally driving in Friday practice sessions.

But now, he is focusing only on racing his Mercedes in the German touring car series DTM, and not regretting no longer being involved with Force India, who struggled financially through the winter.

"I'm not criticizing," Juncadella told Spain's El Confidencial, "but I saw it coming a little bit.

"Force India is a small team where financially it always matters, but this year if I had to choose, I would have preferred another team," he added.

Ultimately, Juncadella said F1's current test restrictions make test and reserve roles almost obsolete.

"At first the experience was very good," he said, "but then it starts to get a bit repetitive.

"So I decided to quit. As for the political side, inside Force India I didn't see much but you realize that sometimes they do play a little with what they tell you.

"I was assured more days in the car that I got," he revealed.

Now, Juncadella is watching his highly-rated fellow Spaniard Roberto Merhi struggle at the very far end of the grid with backmarker Manor.

"He feels a little frustrated," Juncadella said, "because he complains that his car does not have the same top speed as the other.

"And it is very difficult when you're fighting with a car that is not the same as your teammate.

"Hopefully he can fight on equal terms because he is better than his teammate, but when you read the British press it is (Will) Stevens who is appreciated more, without the record that Roberto has," Juncadella added.

Vettel a F1 great, Hamilton 'not yet' – Moss
(GMM) F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss has admitted he is an avowed fan of Sebastian Vettel.

That is despite the fact that it is Moss' fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton who is dominating formula one at present.

But "I don't think Lewis is great yet," the 85-year-old, commonly referred to as the best driver never to win a F1 title, told the Guardian.

Moss also questions Hamilton's focus, surmising that "The thing Lewis is really interested in is music, not driving".

At the same time, Moss does not hide his admiration of Ferrari driver Vettel.

"I'm a big fan of Sebastian," he told Germany's Auto Bild.

"He's a great guy and a great driver — I even got a mini-helmet autographed by him!"

Asked what he most likes about the quadruple world champion, Moss answered: "He is a big fan of the sport, and passion like that is important if you want to be a great racing driver.

"Despite his success, he has kept his feet on the ground. He is a likeable young man who respects his opponents, which reminds me of Fangio. He was also a very well-balanced personality like that.

"I also admire his courage in going to Ferrari," Moss continued, "and how quickly he has brought order into that team.

"At least since his Ferrari win, Sebastian is one of the greatest of our sport."

No quick fix for McLaren – Hakkinen
(GMM) Rumors McLaren may appear with a radical new livery this weekend in Barcelona are wide of the mark.

Earlier, reports emerged that the British team – already criticized in 2015 for not adopting an all-new look for its new works Honda era – would race in Spain this weekend with more grey and less Mercedes-like silver.

But an official McLaren 'tweet' then triggered a new wave of speculation.

On Monday, the team published a poster including the words 'A legend returns', the date 7 May and an image of an iconic Ayrton Senna-piloted red and white McLaren alongside Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

The small print even suggested Tag Heuer is involved, sparking suggestions McLaren may finally be unveiling a title sponsor and a return to its iconic livery of the 80s.

Actually, the 'poster' was referring merely to a Tag Heuer event taking place in Barcelona on Thursday, where the late Senna will appear as a hologram.

The social media-powered misunderstanding is undoubtedly the result of McLaren-Honda having not yet met expectations in 2015.

"They had some great years after I left," said the team's 1998 and 1999 title winner Mika Hakkinen, "but now they have a problem and they know it.

"But they are also working on solutions," Hakkinen told Spain's El Mundo, "because they have such good people but it takes time — and in today's world people do not want to wait, they want it now."

According to the Marca daily, the Finn continued: "The question now is how long it will take them and I don't know — I don't want to imagine.

"But it can be very frustrating for not only the team and the drivers but also the sponsors," Hakkinen added.

Asked if he thinks Alonso – arguably the best driver in F1 today – will now be regretting his move away from Ferrari, Hakkinen said: "It would not be right for me to answer, as what is done is done."

He told the AS daily: "It's like when you go out and it starts to rain and it would have been better if you had brought an umbrella. You just have to go forward.

"But what is true is that Fernando helped enormously in terms of where Ferrari is now.

"The important thing is whether Alonso has the nerve to continue at the level he is. I don't want to get into political or management issues, but as a champion, if I was in his situation, it would be hard to stay motivated," Hakkinen acknowledged.

Hakkinen admits 'wrong' about Verstappen
(GMM) Mika Hakkinen has admitted he was "wrong" about Max Verstappen.

When Red Bull announced last year that the 17-year-old would be making his debut for Toro Rosso in 2015, Hakkinen said: "In no case is a driver ready for formula one at 17.

"Either as a manager or a father, I would never let a driver as young as that race in F1," the former McLaren driver and two-time world champion said in August of 2014.

Four races into Verstappen's grand prix career, however, the teenage Dutchman is now also the youngest-ever F1 points scorer and being hailed as a potential new Senna.

"I was against someone coming into F1 at the age of 17," Hakkinen told the Spanish sports daily Marca on Monday, "but I am happy to admit that I was wrong.

"It is an example that times have changed.

"F1 technology is now very powerful and the information the drivers get is much higher – amazing – which you can study to become a better driver," he explained.

"Everything is better organized, you can test in the simulator all day and in any conditions … I'm not saying it is easier now, but it is more possible to come in and reach a high level."

Many drivers bring sponsors to F1 – Nasr
(GMM) Felipe Nasr has hit back at any lingering claims he might be written off as a typical 'pay driver'.

It was said the Brazilian's arrival at Sauber with his sponsor Banco do Brasil – whose blue and yellow colors now dominate the 2015 livery – helped to save the embattled Swiss team.

But Nasr has also been a standout rookie so far this year, contributing the vast bulk of the team's points so far and powering Sauber to an unlikely fifth in the championship.

"I have won several championships," the 22-year-old driver of Arabic descent told the Portuguese edition of Playboy.

"These criticisms (about being a pay driver) represent a mistaken view," he insisted, "because drivers have been arriving with sponsorship for a long time — Alonso, Vettel, even Schumacher," he said.

Nasr has admitted, however, that Sauber – with probably the second-smallest budget in F1 behind Manor – could struggle to keep up its development pace in the next phase of the season.

"Lotus, Toro Rosso, Force India, McLaren — they're all coming," he confirmed.

"And our car is basically the same as it has been in the first four races," revealed Nasr.

Ahead of the Spanish grand prix, where most teams will unveil substantial car upgrades, a Sauber spokesman told Globo: "Our two cars have aerodynamic upgrades.

"I'm sorry I can't give more details."

Lauda tips Mercedes to keep 'small' advantage
(GMM) Niki Lauda is expecting Mercedes to maintain a "small" advantage at best over title challenger Ferrari in 2015.

The German camp has admitted that the level of Ferrari's resurgence since 2014 was a surprise.

"They (Ferrari) have created a very big project this year," F1 legend Lauda, also the Mercedes team chairman, told Brazil's Globo.

"We knew it would be closer, but not this quickly. I see great potential in their car," said the Austrian, "as they can still add a lot more speed yet.

"We are accelerating our development program and trusting that we will still have an edge, however small," he added.

Lauda said Mercedes' 2014-style of domination, where victories were spread mainly between silver-clad teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, is over.

"That's what I imagine will happen," he answered, when asked if Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will now make it a consistently winning quartet in 2015.

"The history of F1 is full of these examples. We have to enjoy it while we are still those tenths in front, especially in qualifying," added Lauda.

"But if we continue to deliver Lewis a winning car, he will bring us victory," he said. "As a driver, he is in a state of grace."

There will be no new Mercedes engine in Barcelona, but the W06 will feature a substantial aerodynamic upgrade for the Spanish grand prix including a front wing, a spokesman confirmed.

Red Bull now targeting third-best Williams
(GMM) Red Bull is setting its sights on F1's third-best team.

The 2010-2013 champions have already ruled out a tilt for this year's title, with engine supplier Renault taking most of the blame so far.

But Red Bull is also working hard on its chassis, with a big upgrade for Barcelona set to feature the stamp of now part-time technical chief Adrian Newey.

At center-stage of the RB11's Barcelona upgrade is a new, ultra-short front nose.

"It (the package) should solve the problems we have had with the chassis and allow us to take a big leap in performance," team official Dr Helmut Marko told Brazil's Globo.

"I think we will be able to fight with Williams," he added. "That is, of course, if Renault do their part as well."

Indeed, Williams' FW37 is powered by the field-leading Mercedes power unit, with Red Bull announcing last week that it will have to compensate in the area of aerodynamics.

Marko would not go into detail.

"I say only that we are doing our part," he said. "If we have a car with a good engine, it will allow us to fight, sometimes for the podium.

"Adrian is 100 per cent focused on the project," Marko added.

Mercedes does not want to dominate – Briatore
(GMM) Flavio Briatore claims Mercedes actually has no desire to dominate the 2015 season.

The controversial former Renault chief told Italian radio Rai that, having utterly dominated last season, Mercedes is now happy to have its heels nipped by a resurgent Ferrari.

It follows Red Bull chief Dr Helmut Marko's sensational claim late last month that "Mercedes helped Ferrari" catch up over the winter.

"And we all know why," he said, sensing an obvious political motive.

Italian Briatore is now picking up the same theme.

"Mercedes does not want to show excessive power, otherwise the rules will be changed," he said, amid a widespread push in the sport to radically shake up the regulations for 2017.

"It is not in their interest to win so easily," Briatore charged.

Briatore, a close friend and ally of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, also tipped the 84-year-old to stay in charge for at least "another year or two".

"He has the strength to remake F1, but he should have more support from CVC and the FIA.

"After he goes, there will be no one like him again. If CVC stays, it will appoint a chief executive, perhaps an American, and formula one will be controlled by a board.

"This would not be good," said Briatore, "as it is better to have a good little dictator making the rules."

He also commented on rumors Lewis Hamilton might be set to switch to Ferrari, insisting: "I think he is comfortable where he is, as he has Rosberg under pressure.

"Raikkonen has improved but I don't know if they (Ferrari) are going to keep him, otherwise I'd go for a young guy like Bottas.

"My favorite is always Ricciardo but he is stuck with Red Bull," Briatore added.

Lauda now targets Monaco for Hamilton contract
(GMM) The Lewis Hamilton contract saga looks set to continue throughout yet another race weekend or two.

The reigning world champion's repeatedly delayed new Mercedes deal has triggered rumors he might be considering a switch to Ferrari.

But in the last days, German reports indicated a new three-year agreement has finally been signed by both sides, with team chairman Niki Lauda declaring recently: "Everything will be fixed by the Spanish grand prix".

The Austrian and F1 legend, however, is now indicating that the Barcelona weekend will in fact be run and won without Hamilton's deal being sealed.

"There is no problem," Lauda told the Austrian news agency APA. "I expect us to announce something before Monte Carlo, possibly even earlier."

Monaco is the race scheduled to take place two weeks after Spain.

Honda updates focused on drivability, reliability
Honda's updated power unit will focus on providing better drivability and reliability at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend.

The engine manufacturer has struggled in both areas since the start of the season, and as a result McLaren has yet to score a point in the opening four races. With Jenson Button failing to start the Bahrain Grand Prix, reliability is clearly an area of concern for Honda and chief officer of motorsport Yasuhisa Arai says fixes have been put in place which will be tested in Barcelona.

Haas Team wants drivers in place by September
The Haas team is hoping to have its 2016 Formula 1 driver line-up in place by September ahead of its debut next season.

While team principal Gunther Steiner says Haas – which has secured a technical partnership with Ferrari – is not in a hurry to name its drivers, it does have an internal deadline to get the line-up sorted.

"Our plan is to be clear of talks by August/September and then announce them," Steiner told AUTOSPORT.

"The market is getting clearer and a lot of people are getting into contact with us now, because it's both ways.

"We are in no hurry, because we have to see who is on the market, who is doing good and who wants to move.

"And drivers want to see who we are actually. Now they see more and more that we're doing the right things."

Steiner added that while the team is considering American drivers, signing someone with experience in F1 is its priority.

"We are looking at American drivers, but being American doesn't give you an automatic drive," he said.

"If you are good, it's fine. Otherwise if you just pick an American because he's American and you're not successful, it's not good for the driver to start off with.

"It's not good for the team and it's not good for the program in general, and the country because it is like 'Oh, they cannot get it done.'

"An experienced American would be something different, but there is nobody out there and what we need is somebody who needs to guide us a little bit as well, that we know where we stand.

"We need to have a known factor in this team. The team is new, everything is new, so if you throw in new drivers – if we have a problem we don't know where we got it wrong."

American Alexander Rossi, who is currently driving for Racing Engineering in GP2, has F1 experience having completed Friday practice sessions for Caterham and Marussia.

Speaking about the prospect about Haas joining F1, Rossi told AUTOSPORT: "I'm well aware of Haas coming in next year.

"I think that what will do more than me saying anything is just going out and winning races and being on the podium as much as I can and that'll prove to them that I am ready.

"I know that am ready, but they need the proof so I am more than happy to work towards that and to deliver." Autosport

McLaren confirms 'graphite-grey' livery change
(GMM) McLaren on Tuesday confirmed reports it is tweaking its livery ahead of the Spanish grand prix.

Earlier media reports suggested the works Honda-powered team was set to drop the chrome from its identity, perhaps as it is too closely related to its Mercedes-linked past.

Some had even speculated that McLaren might return to the iconic, Senna and Marlboro-esque white and red of the highly-successful 80s, while others said grey and 'rocket red' would in fact be the MP4-30's new look.

"We have revised our car's livery," a McLaren spokesman told us, "improving its visual impact, optimizing it for not only bright sunshine but also for the floodlights increasingly used in twilight and night races.

"The result is a dynamic, predatory, graphite-grey coloration, complemented by McLaren-dayglo 'Speedmarks' and keylines, reducing the reflection issues caused by our latest chrome-silver treatment," he added.

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