Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Make no mistake, Mercedes still has the best car, Vettel just outdrove Hamilton and Rosberg

    Ferrari says Mercedes still has best car

  • Merhi keeps options open amid Manor uncertainty
  • Alonso upbeat after happy Ferrari moves on
  • Raikkonen has full support of Arrivabene
  • Marko won bet by gambling on Ferrari – report
  • CVC 'Don't Need And Don't Want' To Sell F1 Says Ecclestone
  • Alonso: McLaren F1 car's Malaysian GP pace 'nice surprise'

Ferrari says Mercedes still has best car
(GMM) Although disappointed, Toto Wolff had to chuckle late on Sunday when asked if Malaysia signaled the "end of an era" in formula one.

Although it was somewhat of a jibe at his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo and team Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel observed that his win for Ferrari was arguably the "first time Mercedes got beaten fair and square" in the new turbo V6 era.

But is it premature to say the 'era' of Mercedes' domination is now over?

"Formula one is a bit extreme sometimes, isn't it?" team boss Wolff marveled.

"In Australia, so many people said we were going to win all the races this season. Now already we are talking about the 'end of an era'!"

He did admit, however, that Malaysia might be remembered as a "wake-up call" to Mercedes, who did not expect to be so strongly challenged by Ferrari.

So does the German team, not long ago accused of 'sandbagging', now need to throw more power at its 2015 car?

"I read somewhere that Ferrari is spending EUR 100 million more to return to victory lane," Wolff is quoted by Speed Week.

"All I can say is that for us, we have all the resources we need to win. Maybe we will bring in some developments ahead of schedule. But I see no reason to panic."

Indeed, there are some mitigating factors. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg spoke of some confusion and strategy mistakes made by those on the pitwall.

Melbourne winner and pole sitter Hamilton was not happy with the balance of his W06 after sitting out most of Friday practice with a technical problem.

And Ferrari enjoyed the searing heat of Malaysia, playing into its already good management of the Pirelli tires.

Even Ferrari technical chief James Allison admitted: "I am fairly sure we will have our work cut out in China to do anything like as impressive a job as we have done here."

Vettel, now just three points behind Hamilton in the title standings, agrees.

"We have to be realistic," said the German. "They (Mercedes) had a very big gap in winter testing and in the first race, which does not just evaporate.

"Our target has to be that the gap between them and us keeps getting smaller, as the gap will still be there," added Vettel.

Merhi keeps options open amid Manor uncertainty
(GMM) Roberto Merhi is having to keep his options open even after making his grand prix debut on Sunday.

For now, the rookie Spaniard is part of the resurrected former Marussia team, Manor, having travelled to Australia and Malaysia in the race driver role.

After the troubles of Melbourne, Merhi finally made his F1 debut on Sunday, while teammate Will Stevens could not make the grid with a technical problem.

Merhi even made it to the checkered flag, but the modified 2014 car is a long way off the pace and the 24-year-old was lapped no fewer than three times.

He admitted that, by the time he saw the checker, he was sick of the constantly waving and flashing blue flags and lights.

"I was wishing that, instead of having to let cars past, I could fight them, because at the moment Manor does not have sufficient means to do so," he is quoted by Spanish media.

According to El Mundo Deportivo newspaper, Merhi then went straight from a post-race shower to the Kuala Lumpur airport, to catch a flight back to Spain.

His next, immediate outing will be at the Aragon circuit, where his Formula Renault 3.5 team Pons is testing.

Merhi is under contract for the whole 'World Series' season in 2015, despite some clashes with the F1 schedule.

He knows that if a better funded 'pay driver' steps up to claim his seat at Manor, the struggling backmarker will have to replace him.

"After the test at Motorland (Aragon)," said Merhi, "hopefully the team (Manor) will trust in me again for the Chinese grand prix.

"Whatever happens, I thank Manor for giving me this opportunity to fulfil my dream."

Alonso upbeat after happy Ferrari moves on
(GMM) Fernando Alonso insists his first race with McLaren-Honda went better than expected.

Earlier in Malaysia, the Spaniard told reporters he would prefer not to let the world know what his real thoughts were when he watched on television the woeful progress of his new team at the Melbourne opener.

At the same time, his former team Ferrari is riding a wave of rapid progress, with Alonso's 2015 replacement Sebastian Vettel winning in Malaysia.

The Maranello marque, it seems, does not miss the 33-year-old at all.

"The fact is," team boss Maurizio Arrivabene told Welt am Sonntag newspaper, "Sebastian has won four world titles and Fernando two.

"And even if some people say that Sebastian was always sitting in the best car on the grid, he still delivered this great achievement. It reminds me of Michael Schumacher."

Ferrari is not looking back on its recently-departed era of turmoil, where the politics of blame was rife.

"I immediately realized," said newcomer Arrivabene, "that this team needed to come together. There could no longer be this mutual blame for problems and mistakes."

It could have been an opaque reference to Alonso, who now finds himself at McLaren and in an awkward situation regarding the Barcelona test crash contradictions.

Not only that, his MP4-30 is slow.

But after Malaysia, despite his retirement from the race, Alonso sounded upbeat.

"I was fighting with a Red Bull and a Toro Rosso before stopping, after overtaking (Sergio) Perez," he is quoted by El Confidencial newspaper.

"Three days ago, that was unthinkable. It was a bit of a surprise to be racing with a group of other cars," said Alonso.

"I don't know what happened exactly with the car but if we had a normal winter surely we would have found these small faults."

Also outwardly happy is team boss Ron Dennis, who said: "If we can keep taking steps as we did between Australia and Malaysia, we can have a good end of the season."

He is quoted by El Mundo Deportivo is saying McLaren cannot regret its decision to swap a customer Mercedes engine for a struggling works Honda, "because if you want to win championships, you have to have a great manufacturer behind you".

Finally, Alonso said that in the wake of his concussion and long recovery from his Barcelona crash, he felt healthy throughout the Malaysian weekend.

"I am a little tired after this heat," he revealed, "but it would not have been a problem to finish the race.

"I do need to train more in these days before China, because sitting on the couch for so long was not the best preparation."

Raikkonen has full support of Arrivabene
(GMM) After two races in 2015, Ferrari is happy with its driver lineup.

Having struggled alongside Fernando Alonso last year, Kimi Raikkonen went into the last year of his current contract in 2015 admitting he is not sure if he will still be wearing red next season.

But so far, although Alonso's successor Sebastian Vettel has the upper hand after two podium appearances including a win, Raikkonen seems much happier with his new Ferrari.

The Finn was quick in Melbourne but ran into trouble in the race, and he had a similarly troubled Sunday in Malaysia but ultimately finished fourth.

Understandably, Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene focused on the importance of Vettel's breakthrough victory after the Malaysian grand prix.

But after speaking to reporters late on Sunday, the Italian remembered: "One more thing, and it's important to me that you write it.

"Kimi has shown with his great comeback what a fabulous driver he is," Arrivabene is quoted by Speed Week.

"I cannot imagine a finer driving pairing."

Marko won bet by gambling on Ferrari – report
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko left Sepang 400 euros richer — by betting on a Ferrari.

Germany's Sport Bild reports that, in an internal paddock bet, the Red Bull official put his money on his former protege Sebastian Vettel.

"I knew that Sebastian could do it," he said.

"You could see it as early as Friday practice."

Although Vettel left Red Bull after a fallow season last year, Marko says it was obvious the 27-year-old had not lost his quadruple title-winning talent.

"He did not forget how to drive in one year," Marko insisted. "He just could not drive our car as he needed to.

"Maybe people will realize at last that it was not our car alone that gave him those four titles," the Austrian added.

Marko also hinted that Red Bull might be missing Vettel's technical input already.

"Today we had extreme problems with the brakes," he said. "After Sebastian left we changed to a manufacturer that he never liked, but we will change back now."

It was a rare magnanimous show of form by Marko, who after Melbourne had threatened Red Bull's withdrawal from F1 if the regulations are not urgently changed.

After his silver cars lost to a red Ferrari driven by Vettel on Sunday, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said he hopes it stops all the "nonsense" talk about equalization.

Team chairman Niki Lauda agreed: "I think this result is very good for the image of formula one, which we're always complaining about — not me, but other people."

The great Austrian was quoted by Spain's AS: "Even Bernie Ecclestone cannot complain now."

So after the politics dominated in Melbourne, the sport is suddenly celebrating a thrilling race, a different winner, a resurgent Ferrari and the prospect of more to come.

"Maybe next year when McLaren has resolved its problem with Honda, we will have a very good championship with Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull," said former driver Patrick Tambay.

"I was a little worried about formula one, but not anymore!" he told RMC Sport.

CVC 'Don't Need And Don't Want' To Sell F1 Says Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that Formula One's controlling shareholder, the private equity firm CVC, does not have a deadline to sell its stake in the auto racing series as was previously thought.

CVC acquired F1 in a leveraged buyout in 2006 using two loans – $965.6 million from its investment Fund IV and $1.1 billion from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Since then it has made $4.4 billion from the investment as Forbes revealed last year.

It holds a 35% stake worth around $4.2 billion according to a 2013 report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper which put a $12 billion valuation on the entire company. F1 still has huge untapped potential for expansion and will this year race in Mexico City after a 23-year absence. In 2016 a Grand Prix in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, will be added to the calendar and a race in Qatar is also under discussion.

Away from the track, the growth potential is equally high as the series currently lacks an official comic, cartoon and merchandise line which could not only drive significant revenue but would also address claims that F1 has an ageing demographic. With this kind of promise on the horizon it is little surprise that CVC wants to stick around.

"The trouble is that they don't want to sell. That's the important thing. They don’t need and don’t want to sell so I don’t know what they are going to do," says Mr. Ecclestone. “The business of these people is buying and selling companies and I suppose that if somebody comes wandering in with a big enough check book they would sell. Who knows if I would be one of the buyers."

Documents from CVC suggested that in fact it had to divest its stake in F1 by the end of July this year. The deadline is disclosed in the memorandum for Fund IV which was sent to potential investors in it before it closed on 29 July 2005. It states that the term of the fund is 10 years with three one year extensions if consent is given by the majority of the investors. It appears that this has been given as Mr. Ecclestone says “I think they have got out of the window that they need to sell."

CVC has already held F1 for far longer than usual to make the most of its cash generating power. The memorandum states that "CVC typically targets a three to five year investment holding period. CVC has successfully exited portfolio companies by taking them public, selling them to corporate or other institutional buyers and effecting recapitalizations." Forbes.com

Alonso: McLaren F1 car's Malaysian GP pace 'nice surprise'
Fernando Alonso said the pace of his McLaren-Honda Formula 1 car during the Malaysian Grand Prix was "surprisingly good", as the new package showed promise before engine problems.

Returning to the cockpit for the Sepang race after his pre-season testing crash, Alonso mixed it with the Force Indias during practice and while neither he nor team-mate Jenson Button advanced from Q1 – only outqualifying Roberto Merhi's Manor – Sunday represented a step in the right direction after a disastrous Australian Grand Prix.

Before his race ended with an ERS cooling issue on lap 21, the Spaniard spent the bulk of his time behind Sergio Perez's Force India, amid what was essentially the midfield group after most drivers pitted during the early safety car period.

Asked if progress had been made, Alonso replied: "Yes, better than expected.

"[The] pace was surprisingly good, running with the pack even catching the Red Bulls at the end before the pitstop.

"Hopefully in China we can make another step forward. These reliability problems are normal without [much running in] winter testing.

"This is normally what you find in winter testing and we have to find it in the first couple of races."

Despite failing to get a car to the line, the step forward in pace represented a positive outcome for the team, especially in the warmer conditions given Honda's cooling issues.

"I think I had a very positive weekend," Alonso said.

"Free practice had no issues, so I was able to try some set-up changes, qualifying went OK but [it was] too short, out of Q1.

"Now we found a problem it is important for the team to understand and not repeat the same problem for the next race.

"The level of competitiveness has been quite good. We were running with pack and catching Red Bull at end before the pitstops was a nice surprise." Autosport

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