Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Hamilton still not re-signed by Mercedes

    Hamilton admits contract saga 'a pain'

  • China could leave Ferrari cold in Merc battle
  • FIA puts fuel flow spotlight on Ferrari, Mercedes
  • Ricciardo admits 'whole package' below par
  • Renault can catch up without rule change
  • Manor gets '2015 program' underway – Booth
  • Rosberg denies need for 'number 2' role
  • Cheerful Button sees 'great future'
  • Infiniti Red Bull Racing Partners With Hisense

Hamilton admits contract saga 'a pain'
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton's increasingly farcical contract saga looks set to continue.

The reigning world champion has been saying for weeks that talks with Mercedes about extending the deal beyond 2015 are finally coming to an end.

Reports have suggested a new contract, estimated to be worth up to a staggering $50 million a year to the 30-year-old Briton, is basically agreed.

But asked if an announcement is due in China this weekend, Hamilton told Britain's Sky: "I think it's unlikely."

The two-time title winner does not currently have someone playing the traditional role of a driver manager, so he says he has been reading the fine print of the proposed contract himself.

"Obviously at the last race I said it would be done within a week," said Hamilton.

"This is my first time negotiating myself and you don't know how many times I've had to read about 80 pages — it is so much reading and it is all in lawyer jargon. So it has been a quite a pain in the backside to be honest," he admitted.

Will the Ferrari flags be waving again in Shanghai?
Will the Ferrari flags be waving again in Shanghai?

China could leave Ferrari cold in Merc battle
(GMM) The F1 world is looking to the Shanghai skies amid the prospect of another Mercedes versus Ferrari battle this weekend.

Although Ferrari has undoubtedly upped its pace significantly for 2015, many believe the extreme temperatures seen in Malaysia two weeks ago was the biggest factor in Sebastian Vettel's surprise victory.

Even technical boss James Allison admits that while others may have struggled to cool their cars at Sepang, Ferrari managed to run "without having to open up" the bodywork of the SF15-T.

"The track was also rough and hot, which is hard for tires, and we're fortunate the car goes well on its tires," he is quoted by the Daily Mail.

"Quite what problems were going on in Merc-land I don't know. But I'm fairly sure we will have our work cut out in China to do as impressive a job as we did in Malaysia," said Allison.

That is because much cooler temperatures are forecast for the Chinese grand prix weekend, meaning Mercedes could revert to its Melbourne-brand of dominance.

"There is a lot of work for us to do before we can head into every race weekend confident we can hunt for the victory from the first session of that weekend," Allison admitted.

Vettel also admits that it is too soon for Ferrari to declare itself on eye-level with the reigning world champions.

"The most important thing now is to confirm our position as the second force," he told Germany's Sport Bild.

"Malaysia was very hot, but China is a totally different circuit and it will be much colder. I expect Mercedes to be very, very strong and I believe they will – as usual – set the pace," Vettel added.

Are Mercedes and Ferrari in compliance?
Are Mercedes and Ferrari in compliance?

FIA puts fuel flow spotlight on Ferrari, Mercedes
(GMM) Ferrari and Mercedes will be in the FIA's spotlight this weekend in China.

Some weeks ago, we reported that the governing body had told teams that the fuel flow rules would come under closer scrutiny from the Chinese grand prix.

Until now, the rules have been policed with the use of a standard fuel flow meter, but the FIA reportedly now wants to check pressure in other parts of the fuel system.

The Paris federation reportedly suspects that some teams and manufacturers are finding their way around the 100kg/h rule by increasing fuel flow in areas other than the actual meter.

The spotlight is shining most brightly on Mercedes and Ferrari, given the obvious step both engine manufacturers have made in 2015.

Spain's Marca sports daily reports: "From Thursday in Shanghai, the FIA will use a new set of sensors to measure the fuel system in more detail."

Another Spanish newspaper, El Confidencial, added: "If anyone has managed to exploit a loophole, then they will suffer the effects from China."

Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo admits 'whole package' below par
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that Red Bull's problems run deeper than Renault power.

Particularly after Australia, bosses of the former world championship-dominant team pointed the finger angrily at its French engine partner.

Renault hit back with equal venom, accusing Red Bull of pedaling "lies" about its only issue in 2015 being the struggling turbo V6.

Asked directly if it is right to say the engine is the only problem, senior Red Bull driver Ricciardo admitted: "It's the whole package.

"But this means that we have the opportunity now to look in many areas for improvement," the Australian is quoted by the Swiss publication

After two races, Ricciardo lies a distant eighth in the 2015 drivers' standings, despite finishing last season 'best of the rest' behind the Mercedes duo.

"Put it this way — it's been challenging," he smiled.

"But the season is still young and many things can change. We will just have to have some patience."

However, Ricciardo admitted it was difficult to cope two weeks ago when a driver he notably defeated last year – former teammate Sebastian Vettel – lapped him en route to victory in a Ferrari.

"I was surprised," he said.

"We saw in winter testing that Ferrari looks good, but to beat Mercedes in the second race of the season surprised everybody I think," said Ricciardo.

"On the other hand, it's good for our sport that another car is at the front — good for Ferrari obviously but also for everybody else.

"It shows that Mercedes is not unbeatable," he added.

Cyril Abiteboul
Cyril Abiteboul

Renault can catch up without rule change
(GMM) Renault insists it will not argue for a change of rules to help it catch up with F1's pacesetters.

After Mercedes utterly dominated last year as the new turbo V6 era began, Ferrari has demonstrated already in 2015 that it has caught up.

"I hope we have a race with those guys (Ferrari)," championship leader Lewis Hamilton, beaten two weeks ago by Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia, said ahead of the Chinese grand prix.

"They are just as quick as us on the straights and they had amazing pace in the last race," he told Sky.

Conspicuously lagging behind, however, is Renault, as works partner Red Bull suggests the French manufacturer even made a "retrograde" step compared to 2014.

Red Bull has arguing stridently for a change of rules, or 'equalization' measures, fearing the status quo could see it and Renault permanently stranded.

But Renault's F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul insists it can catch up, "And for that we need no change in the regulations," he argued, according to Speed Week.

"I would never ask for a change in the regulations to catch up with a competitor," he insisted.

"I see no reason why we cannot come up to the level of Mercedes. It's just a matter of time," said the Frenchman.

Indeed, after an admittedly bad start in Melbourne, Renault says it upped its game for Malaysia and is set to improve yet further this weekend in China.

"Performance was improved in Malaysia, although we did keep some in reserve to safeguard reliability," said operations chief Remi Taffin.

"Now we are getting more confident in this area we can afford to be more aggressive and we should see better results on the straights, with a higher top speed," he added.

Abiteboul continued: "In Malaysia, we improved in terms of drivability but it was not possible to solve all the problems between Melbourne and Sepang.

"I would say we have solved 60 per cent of the problems, but that has already made a huge difference."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said in Malaysia that the thought of Shanghai's extremely long straights was "depressing", given Renault's problems.

But Abiteboul said: "I do not think we will be miles behind Mercedes. We can see that from our simulations. We know what to do."

Manor gets '2015 program' underway – Booth
(GMM) Manor is reportedly looking to get a 2015 car up and running later this season.

Newly resurrected after the Marussia collapse, the British backmarker failed to run at all in Australia and then struggled for laps and pace in Malaysia.

Now in China, Manor knows its current car – the 2014 machine hurriedly modified for this year's rule tweaks – will once again struggle to comply with the 107 per cent qualifying rule.

Reports suggest work is underway on a 2015 car.

"Thanks to our first full race distance at Sepang," said John Booth in Shanghai, "we've been able to use the data gathered there to get our 2015 development program underway".

Manor has reappointed Roberto Merhi for the Chinese grand prix, while Will Stevens is hoping to make the grid for the very first time in 2015 this weekend, having sat out Sunday in Malaysia.

"It's been good to have the data from Roberto's race there (in Malaysia) for the team to work with and I'm hoping that we can start to get into a good rhythm from this weekend," he said.

Rosberg is already #2 but won't admit it
Rosberg is already #2 but won't admit it

Rosberg denies need for 'number 2' role
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has denied he will slip into a 'number 2' role in 2015.

Despite putting up a hard fight against his teammate last year, the German has struggled to match reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton so far in 2015.

Not only that, Mercedes' previous dominance was challenged by Ferrari two weeks ago in Malaysia, moving boss Toto Wolff to consider whether a strategy change might now be necessary.

Some interpreted that as a sign Briton Hamilton may move into de-facto 'number 1' status, but Rosberg insists: "That definitely won't be the case.

"It will still be the same," he told Britain's Sky. "We are going to have an intense battle and the rivalry will continue."

But Rosberg also had to deny that the intensity of his rivalry with Hamilton had reduced because of his increasingly subordinate position on the track.

"My start hasn't been 100 per cent," he admitted, "but it hasn't been that far off either.

"The (Shanghai) track really suits me and we have an awesome car so it should be a great weekend and the win is possible."

Nonetheless, both he and Hamilton finished behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia, causing some to wonder if Mercedes needs a total re-think in the wake of its earlier dominance.

"We just need to stay calm, continue to develop and put the right things on the car," boss Toto Wolff insists.

"Maybe we (will) put some things earlier on the car than planned, but there is no reason to panic," he is quoted by the Daily Mail.

Button thinks the McLaren-Honda package will come good
Button thinks the McLaren-Honda package will come good

Cheerful Button sees 'great future'
(GMM) Jenson Button insists he has a "great future" at McLaren.

His comments follow a miserable period for the 2009 world champion, having clung onto his place in F1 only to find himself at the back of the grid.

But all the leading figures at McLaren-Honda, including Fernando Alonso, are painting an "astonishingly upbeat" demeanor in the face of their struggles, according to the Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson.

"Cynics might retort that this is all a load of PR guff. Button is being told what to say to spare the team's blushes", Johnson wrote.

He surmised that, at the age of 35 and with nothing else to prove in F1, Button might be better off at Le Mans, as McLaren is "possibly years from success".

Button told reporters in Shanghai on Thursday: "A lot of people have asked me how I am so positive and how the team is so upbeat.

"It is because we see a great future," he insisted.

Button said McLaren has made a lot of progress since Australia, and despite probably suffering on the long Shanghai straights this weekend, might soon be "picking off" rival teams.

He said he was not far from the Red Bulls in Malaysia.

"I know they're not quick but that is a good step forward for us," he told the Express newspaper.

"Right now we're comparing ourselves with the Force Indias, Saubers and Lotuses.

"Fighting with the pack is important for me. It's what I enjoy and hopefully, race by race, we'll start picking them off," said Button.

Red Bull drivers with Horner and Dr. Lin
Red Bull drivers with Horner and Dr. Lin

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Partners With Hisense
Infiniti Red Bull Racing is pleased to announce today a multi-year partnership with Hisense, China's leading electronics manufacturer. Hisense has become an Official Supplier to the Team, enabling the company to showcase its technology and raise global brand awareness.

As part of the agreement, Hisense's logo will feature on the nose of the RB11, on the Team's pit wall and driver monitors, as well as on all Team Partner listing areas. The partnership means Hisense's cutting edge range of products, including television and consumer electronics, will be supplied to the team both at track and in the factory.

The announcement was made at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix and complements Hisense's sponsorship programs in the USA with NASCAR, the Australian Open tennis tournament and Schalke 04 football team in Germany.

Team Principal, Christian Horner, said: "Everyone associated with Infiniti Red Bull Racing is delighted to welcome Hisense to our team. Their approach to innovation and technological development is impressive and we look forward to our partnership developing as the season unfolds."

Hisense is the No. 1 television manufacturer in China, a position it has maintained for 11 consecutive years. Through this partnership Hisense is looking to become the third most popular global TV brand, one place higher than last year.

"Infiniti Red Bull Racing is one of the most successful and most talked about teams in a sport renowned for technology, teamwork and competitiveness," said Dr. Lin, Executive Vice President of Hisense Company Ltd. "Like Infiniti Red Bull Racing, we are a proud challenger brand and we continually innovate our best-in-class consumer products to stay ahead of the others. We look forward to sharing these with the team to help them throughout the season."

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