Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • After a thorough whipping by Vettel and Ferrari Wolff has a fight on his hands

    Mercedes to re-think 'fair play' strategies – Wolff

  • Hamilton flags 2016 deal announcement 'this week'
  • Old chiefs deserve credit for Ferrari win – Montezemolo
  • Ecclestone's criticism of Vettel wrong – Berger
  • German GP demise 'serious' for F1 nation – Haug
  • Catching Mercedes 'not possible' – Marko
  • Ferrari's driver hierarchy already set – Fiorio
  • Wolff: Ferrari victory 'good' for Formula 1
  • Arrivabene urges Ferrari to maintain progress

Mercedes to re-think 'fair play' strategies – Wolff
(GMM) The big question after Malaysia is: has Ferrari really caught Mercedes?

After Sebastian Vettel's breakthrough win in red on Sunday, Mercedes figures admitted to being surprised their dominance of Melbourne has been so quickly reined in.

Team boss Toto Wolff described it as a "wake-up call".

"I don't think it was a wake-up call," championship leader Lewis Hamilton insists. "But I think everyone can always do with, not a kick, more like a pinch."

Some think Malaysia was just a one-off. Huge track temperatures were recorded all weekend, and the Ferrari undoubtedly handled them better with the Pirelli tires.

There were also tactical errors by Mercedes.

"We weren't particularly good on radio messaging," Wolff admitted. "We had a couple of weird calls."

Also on the strategy front, Mercedes might be accused of having played too conservative a game, given its huge dominance in Australia just two weeks earlier.

Wolff said he might now press the button to speed-up technical developments ahead of China, and said another re-think will also take place at Brackley.

"Maybe with our very 'fair-play' ideas … maybe in future we need to make decisions that could be a little unpopular with the Germans or the English," he is quoted by German-language reports.

He is referring to the fact that Mercedes likes to give Hamilton and Nico Rosberg total equality when it comes to race strategy.

But on Sunday, a better tactic might have been to split the strategies so that one Mercedes was always within sight of Vettel's Ferrari.

Former F1 driver David Coulthard admits Mercedes has been given a lot to think about after Malaysia.

"This is a new test for the Mercedes management," he told the Telegraph, "but the momentum is still with them."

Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa agrees that the Maranello team cannot yet celebrate having bridged the formerly massive gap to Mercedes.

"Mercedes has the faster car," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, "and Ferrari uses the tires better.

"That was the key in Malaysia," said the Williams driver.

But another key, Massa added, is a big step made over the winter by Ferrari on the 'power unit' front, which may not have been matched by Mercedes.

"At the moment we do not feel more power than last year," said the Mercedes-powered driver. "But you can also see it with the Sauber — Ferrari has taken a giant step."

Looks like Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are close to finalizing a deal

Hamilton flags 2016 deal announcement 'this week'
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton's new Mercedes deal is still inching towards the signatures, the reigning world champion says.

After months of rumors, delays and public negotiations, the British driver said before Malaysia that he was hoping his contract for 2016 and beyond will be ready for an announcement before the race weekend ended.

It didn't happen, but one Spanish report said the sides have now fully agreed and a public declaration is now imminent.

Hamilton, 30, has now backed that suggestion, as British newspapers suggest a deal worth about $40 million a year for the two-time title winner is on the table.

"It should be done this week," he is quoted as saying. "There is no reason why not.

"It's honestly 99.6 per cent done. Yeah, just the legal stuff (is outstanding)," added Hamilton. "There's no negotiating left."

He rubbished reports a move to Ferrari might still be on the cards, following rumors and also confirmed reports that Hamilton recently bought an ultra-rare 'LaFerrari' supercar.

"No, don't be silly," Hamilton insisted.

Old chiefs deserve credit for Ferrari win – Montezemolo
(GMM) Luca di Montezemolo insists Ferrari's former management should not be forgotten after the fabled team returned to the top step of the podium.

Long-time president Montezemolo was just one of many victims of Maranello's 2014 turmoil, as Ferrari also shed two team principals, numerous engineers and number 1 driver Fernando Alonso.

"I am very happy," the 67-year-old, now chief executive of Alitalia, said.

"I did not expect that the team would win so quickly," Montezemolo is quoted by international media reports.

He insisted, however, that the new guard at Ferrari, headed by Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene and Sebastian Vettel in the cockpit, do not deserve all the credit.

"This is the reward for hard work," Montezemolo said. "It began on this car in Maranello in February 2014, and was then picked up by those who run the Scuderia now."

He continued: "This victory is perhaps also due to some small errors by Mercedes, but also to all those who planned the car and engine last year."

Veteran F1 driver Jenson Button agrees that Vettel cannot take too much credit for turning Ferrari into an immediate winner after his Red Bull switch.

"He has definitely lucked into a situation, I would say," said the McLaren-Honda driver.

"It is one of those situations which sometimes works out for you."

Even so, it must be a bitter pill to swallow for Button's new teammate Fernando, who after five years at Ferrari is now racing the woefully slow McLaren.

"I sat next to Sebastian (on Sunday) and thought 'What is Fernando thinking?'" admitted Lewis Hamilton, an avowed admirer of the Spaniard.

"It could have been him. It's just strange how things turn out," the two-time world champion added.

Alonso, however, insists he has no regrets about leaving Ferrari, even though Vettel is now driving a winning car that could contractually have been his in 2015.

"When I saw Mercedes win by half a minute in Australia," he is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial, "I was very clear about my decision."

Ecclestone's criticism of Vettel wrong – Berger
(GMM) Gerhard Berger has hit back at Bernie Ecclestone, following the F1 supremo's criticism of Sebastian Vettel.

Before Vettel won for Ferrari on Sunday, 84-year-old Ecclestone said in Malaysia that Lewis Hamilton is a better world champion than German Vettel.

"He (Hamilton) is a good guy, he gets out on the street and supports and promotes formula one," Ecclestone said.

"I told Sebastian he should do what Lewis is doing — put himself out there. He won four titles but went to ground. He should have done the job of world champion."

Former F1 driver, winner and team boss Berger, however, insisted Vettel should not be criticized for living a low-profile and fiercely private life with his family in Switzerland.

"I don't understand Bernie," said the great Austrian, who was Vettel's team boss at Toro Rosso seven years ago.

"Does he wants his drivers to run wild on the Reeperbahn?" Berger, referring to the infamous red-light district of Hamburg, told Sport Bild.

"On Sunday, Vettel trod on the only red carpet that matters — as the winner of the race."

German GP demise 'serious' for F1 nation – Haug
(GMM) Norbert Haug has lamented the demise of Germany's historic grand prix.

"It does not send the right signals about the car industry in Germany," the former Mercedes chief told the Sudwestrundfunk broadcaster.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that "money" was the stumbling block as he negotiated with the Nurburgring and Hockenheim about keeping the July 19 race on this year's calendar.

2015 will be Germany's first absence from the annual schedule for six decades.

"Germany is a formula one nation," Haug insisted, "and not just because there was a race. This is serious," he lamented.

Indeed, F1 has a German quadruple world champion as well as a leading manufacturer and engine supplier that is also the reigning title winner.

Haug saves some of the blame for the race's demise on the organizers, but also F1 as a whole.

"Football does it right, as the stadiums are full," he said. "Motor sport must come up with something to satisfy the customers."

It is believed Malaysia has renewed its race contract for just three years, rather than the customary five or more, due to concerns about the sport.

Sepang boss Razlan Razali told AFP an example of his worry is the state of the Manor team, having not fired an engine in Melbourne and failing to properly qualify in Malaysia.

"It makes a mockery of the sport, I think," he said.

Another struggling team is Force India, whose deputy boss Bob Fernley said the sport needs a "very in-depth" look at itself to "to make sure it addresses the concerns of the fans, the teams, the TV, the media, the whole group".

"I don't believe that we're doing a good job at the moment at that," he added.

Catching Mercedes 'not possible' – Marko
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko remains doubtful Red Bull can catch up in 2015.

After Australia, the Red Bull official was warning the energy drink company could quit the sport unless 'equalization' measures were imposed.

That was when the magnitude of Mercedes' apparent dominance appeared insurmountable, but Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel then broke through in Malaysia for a surprise win.

"Hopefully all the nonsense about equalization stops now," said defeated team boss Toto Wolff on Sunday.

But although Ferrari has managed to close the gap to Mercedes over the winter, Marko remains doubtful Renault can now do the same.

"It is not possible to get where Mercedes is," he told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

He blames Renault, saying Ferrari has simply done "a better job" than the French manufacturer. "We need an engine that works," insisted Marko.

But not everyone is buying Red Bull's story. Renault, for one, is not giving up on 2015.

"Ferrari has done a great job in recent months," boss Cyril Abiteboul is quoted by Brazil's Agencia Estado.

"This shows that Mercedes can be beaten. We have to focus on our work, play the game and continue to improve every time we are on the track.

"Finishing a lap behind the leaders is not where we need to be," he added, "but now we have very clear goals."

However, not every Renault-powered car was a lap down at the checkered flag at Sepang. The sensational teen Max Verstappen, in seventh, finished the race on the lead lap.

Germany's authoritative Auto Motor und Sport thinks the reason is simple: the 2015 car produced by the junior team Toro Rosso is better than Adrian Newey's RB11.

Red Bull has already admitted its issues with the brakes at Sepang, and the tires were also a problem. "Degradation was extremely high," admitted team boss Christian Horner.

Part of Red Bull's problem is that its aerodynamic development is delayed because the team is having trouble passing the FIA crash tests with its new short nose solution.

Marko said: "When the new parts come, we will make a significant step."

But it will not be enough, he warned: "With the stupid (engine) token system, it is impossible for us to catch up this season."

Not only that, he is worried Ferrari is set to continue to chew into Mercedes' dominance during the course of 2015.

"According to my information, Ferrari has an update package for its engine for Canada," Marko told Bild newspaper, referring to the June race in Montreal.

"Then they will be level with Mercedes, or maybe even better."

Ferrari's driver hierarchy already set – Fiorio
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen is back.

2015 is a crucial year for the Finn, having declared his interest in racing on beyond the season but acknowledging his expiring Ferrari contract.

Last year, he was humbled by teammate Fernando Alonso.

For the new season, 35-year-old Raikkonen is paired with his friend Sebastian Vettel, but it is the German newcomer who is attracting the headlines.

Vettel was on the podium in Australia, and he ended Mercedes' long run of dominance last Sunday by winning on just his second outing for Ferrari — a feat not even the great Michael Schumacher achieved.

But "This was a Michael Schumacher-esque performance," F1 veteran David Coulthard, a contemporary of the great seven time world champion, told the Telegraph.

Vettel is now within striking distance of taking the championship lead: a feat that amazed reigning champion Lewis Hamilton when told.

"Only three points? Really? Wow," said the Briton.

The forgotten man of Ferrari's revival, however, is Raikkonen. He has just 12 points to his name so far, compared to Vettel's 40.

But experts agree that Raikkonen does appear back on form in 2015, despite having run into results-spoiling trouble in Australia and Malaysia.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said he has already proved in 2015 that he is a "fabulous" driver.

Former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi told Italy's Corriere della Sera that he has little doubt Raikkonen would have been on the podium in Malaysia, in the place of a Mercedes driver.

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve agreed: "He was very good (in Malaysia)," the Canadian told Sky Italia.

"He (Raikkonen) had to make an early pitstop and then found himself in the path of those on used tires."

Even Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was impressed, remarking that it was Raikkonen's pace on Friday that first set alarm bells ringing about the weekend.

"We saw on Friday how good Kimi's long runs were," he was quoted by Finland's MTV3, "which is when we believed it would be a good weekend for them (Ferrari)."

But Cesare Fiorio, the team boss at Ferrari before the Jean Todt era, tipped Vettel to maintain his edge throughout 2015.

Referring to Raikkonen, he told Rai radio: "Every now and then it goes bad for him, as it did on Saturday.

"He is at the end of his career, but still a great champion. But even after two races, the hierarchy of the team is already established.

"If Vettel fights for the world championship, Raikkonen will only support him," Fiorio added.

Wolff: Ferrari victory 'good' for Formula 1
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes that Sebastian Vettel's triumph at the Malaysian Grand Prix is positive for Formula 1, as Ferrari's win drought came to an end at the expense of the reigning champions.

Mercedes' supreme 1-2 at the Australian Grand Prix led to the assumption that the team would dominate in 2015, but Vettel and Ferrari used a two-stop strategy to take advantage of the hot conditions at Sepang and record the first non-Mercedes win since Daniel Ricciardo's success at last year's Belgian Grand Prix.

"I think we can take a step back and look at the sport," Wolff said. "Always it seems that when people are making the most noise about changing the rules, Formula 1 delivers.

"It was the case in Bahrain last year and we saw it again [in Malaysia]. It wasn't a perfect day for Mercedes but it was a good one for Formula 1."

Wolff added that Mercedes must learn from its defeat, but is unsure that the squad could have beaten Vettel had they attempted a different strategy.

"We were beaten fair and square by Ferrari and Sebastian, who did a fantastic job, and I'm not sure we could have matched their long run pace at any point," he said.

"They took a well-deserved win. We saw on Friday that Kimi [Raikkonen] was really strong in these hot conditions and that was confirmed in the race.

"It's easy to be clever after the race looking at things we could have done better and there are certainly plenty of points that could have been optimized.

"But we take these decisions together as a team and this is the moment to stay calm, do our analysis and learn what we can improve for next time."

Maurizio Arrivabene gets his first win as Ferrari boss

Arrivabene urges Ferrari to maintain progress
Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene says the squad must remain realistic, despite claiming its first victory in almost two years at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel beat Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Sepang to record Arrivabene's first win after taking over from Marco Mattiacci last November, but the Italian has emphasized that Ferrari must not get carried away by its early triumph.

"This is no one-man win: it's a success for the whole team, which has been working impeccably at all levels," said Arrivabene.

"Sebastian was just unbelievable, and Kimi was able to put on a fantastic charge from the back.

"The whole team gave me great emotions and I wish to thank everybody, including the women and men back at the Maranello factory, for putting on an incredible effort over the last months, burning the midnight oil.

"Now we've got to be realistic, keep our feet on the ground and our concentration at a high level, because Mercedes is still a formidable contender."

Raikkonen, who placed fourth despite sustaining an early puncture, says that his teammate's victory is a boost for the outfit after a problematic 2014 campaign, but remains unsure whether the SF15-T will be a race-winning car on other circuits.

"The win of Sebastian is a very good thing for him and for the whole team, knowing how difficult the last year has been," he said.

"It's a very good job what the team has done. We knew from winter testing that we have a good car, so it did not come as a total surprise, and probably the track with these high temperatures suited us.

"I don't know how it will be in other circuits, but the car has been strong so far, not yet as we want but we have a good package, and we are getting stronger."

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