Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Ferrari boss Arrivabene is all smiles as his driver Sebastian Vettel takes Lewis Hamilton to school in Sepang

    Rosberg denies 'blocking' Hamilton

  • Ecclestone regrets letting Manor return
  • Honda relying more on McLaren now – Boullier
  • Susie Wolff slams 'all-female F1' series idea
  • Dennis denies Alonso relationship breaking down again
  • Wolff hopes Malaysia stops equalization 'nonsense'
  • No Hamilton contract news for 'few more days'
  • Malaysia announces new F1 race deal

Rosberg denies 'blocking' Hamilton
(GMM) Nico Rosberg protested his innocence on Saturday, amid suspicions he 'blocked' teammate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying.

It is a thorny subject in the Mercedes camp, after the pair's relationship deteriorated last year amid the tense battle for the 2014 title.

During a wet qualifying session in Malaysia, Hamilton had to pass a cruising Rosberg on the inside of a corner, in a move described "naughty" by former F1 driver David Coulthard.

Mercedes team bosses played down the incident, while Briton Hamilton claimed he didn't remember it.

But later, Hamilton did refer to the incident when he said he ran into "traffic". Earlier, on the radio, Rosberg had referred to Hamilton as "the guy who is first".

The German then tried to make light of the supposed 'blocking' move, jokingly posing as a journalist during a media round with the written press.

"Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG Petronas," he called out to Hamilton. "There are a lot of comments on Twitter saying Nico blocked you. Is that true?"

Hamilton smiled: "I think you should probably ask him. I think he'll have a good opinion on that."

The press corps burst into laughter, but Rosberg furrowed his brow and appeared offended.

"That's not funny. That's not funny!" he insisted.

Soon after, Rosberg was indeed asked his opinion on the incident, and he claimed Hamilton was not even on a hot lap at the time.

"How do we make that a fact? That he bailed out before he came across me?" he quizzed.

"Me just saying it isn't going to bear much weight. You can ask Toto (Wolff). That will give some more weight to it," Rosberg said.

Ecclestone regrets letting Manor return
(GMM) Manor appears to have lost the backing of Bernie Ecclestone, the most powerful man in formula one.

The F1 supremo was furious with the former Marussia team after Australia, claiming it travelled to the 2015 opener with no intention of running its cars.

Ecclestone, 84, responded by docking Manor one nineteenth of its official prize-money haul, and sending the Yorkshire-based outfit a bill for air freight.

Now, he has launched a scathing attack on Justin King, the former Sainsbury's chief who is now the chairman at Manor under new ownership.

Earlier, King was named as a potential successor to Briton Ecclestone.

But Ecclestone seemed to rule that out, suggesting King's stewardship could not even allow Manor to fire its engines in Melbourne, let alone race.

"This shows you what that Justin King is," he told The Independent newspaper. "King is the genius businessman.

"The guy that was going to do all these things," Ecclestone was quoted by business journalists Christian Sylt and Caroline Reid.

"It's bloody disgusting, to be honest with you," he charged. "They never had anything (in Australia) which could let them run."

He admits he regrets letting Manor return so that it can collect over $50 million in official prize-money this year, distributed by Ecclestone, the chief executive of F1's commercial rights holder.

"We should have chopped them off when we found out that they were insolvent," said Ecclestone.

"The trouble is that they went into administration, and when they get themselves out of administration, they are back as if nothing has ever happened. I have never heard anything so mad but that is how it is."

Honda relying more on McLaren now – Boullier
(GMM) McLaren and Honda are working hard to make their new works collaboration gel.

Back together in 2015 after more than two decades apart, the British team hailed Honda's return as simply the next chapter in an ultra-successful, title-winning tale.

But that was before the silver cars lined up dead last in Melbourne, and McLaren-Honda has only been spared a repeat of that ignominy in Malaysia because backmarkers Manor have been granted an exemption from the 107pc qualifying rule.

However, drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button insist the MP4-30 is now taking giant strides forwards.

"As a team we are now 90 per cent," explained team boss Eric Boullier, according to the Spanish daily El Pais.

"The remaining 10 per cent is because we find two very different cultures that need time to fit together."

The newspaper said one example was at the opening winter test at Jerez, where McLaren mechanics twice fired up the MP4-30 only to realize that no oil was in the Honda engine.

"Honda has recognized that it needs more help from our people; not so much on the engine itself, but in everything that surrounds it," Frenchman Boullier revealed.

Meanwhile, another big talking point in Malaysia this weekend has been Fernando Alonso, and suggestions he must surely now be regretting his switch from Ferrari.

He is now in one of the slowest cars on the grid, while his replacement at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, is nipping the heels of the otherwise dominant Mercedes.

But the Spaniard insists he is "patient".

"Many of the Japanese are new to F1 but we will grow up together," said Alonso. "I am very happy to be back here.

"I knew that if I wanted to win again, I had to do something different, not just try to copy what Mercedes has done," he added.

Susie Wolff not keen on Bernie Ecclestone's idea of an all-female F1 series

Susie Wolff slams 'all-female F1' series idea
(GMM) Susie Wolff has slammed suggestions an all-female version of formula one should be launched.

Alarmed at the current state of the sport he built, F1 supremo Ecclestone has been full of ideas in Sepang, such as allocating points for qualifying and mixing up the grids.

And according to Britain's Mirror newspaper, the 84-year-old's next idea is a separate F1 series only for women.

But Susie Wolff, the female test driver for Williams, blasted: "It's most definitely not the right way forward.

"First of all, I don't know where you'd find a full grid of female drivers who are good enough," said the 32-year-old.

"Secondly, I have raced my whole career in motor sport as a normal competitor. Why would I ever look for a race where I was only competing against women?

"I can hand on heart say it would not interest me at all to win such a race. I would rather not be in the race because what am I winning? A race where they've just looked for any girl to make a grid up," Wolff added.

Dennis denies Alonso relationship breaking down again
(GMM) Ron Dennis has played down suggestions McLaren's relationship with Fernando Alonso is once again breaking down.

In 2007, paired with rookie Lewis Hamilton and amid the spy scandal, Alonso's first McLaren tenure ended after just one acrimonious season.

The parties are back together in 2015, but some regard it as little more than a marriage of convenience, following the breakdown of Alonso's relationship with Ferrari after five consecutive title-less campaigns.

But Alonso-McLaren in 2015 has arguably already been more tumultuous than eight years ago, even though barely a wheel has turned.

Not only is the MP4-30 slow, the 33-year-old's mysterious Barcelona crash has reportedly driven a wedge between Alonso and McLaren.

Some observers remarked that Alonso's press conference on Thursday, during which he directly contradicted most of the official claims made by McLaren in the past weeks, was an obvious "attack" on the British team.

Team supremo Ron Dennis, who clashed so spectacularly with Alonso eight years ago, arrived at Sepang on Saturday.

He insisted: "There is no problem between the team and Fernando.

"He gave his recollection of events, we provided our data relating to the accident, and that's the end of the story. Everything is fine," Dennis is quoted by the Telegraph.

But glaring questions about the bizarre Barcelona testing crash and aftermath remain. Reigning champion Hamilton was a lone voice in the drivers' briefing in Malaysia when he pressed Charlie Whiting for answers.

"He crashed and then they did what?" the Briton is quoted as saying, after hearing about Alonso's account of the crash. "They gave him medication?

"Really? Has the FIA come out with their statement (following an investigation)? That will be very interesting to hear," said Hamilton.

So as the odd tale continues, so too will the wild speculation. The Cologne tabloid Express has floated a bizarre theory about doping.

It claims Alonso, a huge cycling fan, has links to Eufemiano Fuentes, a Spanish doctor linked to doping scandals.

And Alonso's trainer, Fabrizio Borra, has worked with the late cyclist Marco Pantani, who died of cocaine poisoning in 2004.

Sebastian Vettel took it to Mercedes Sunday in Malaysia

Wolff hopes Malaysia stops equalization 'nonsense'
(GMM) Toto Wolff on Sunday said he hopes Ferrari's breakthrough win stops the "nonsense" talk about equalization.

After Australia, Red Bull threatened to quit F1 over Mercedes' huge supremacy amid the current engine regulations, arguing that only artificial "equalization" mechanisms can fix the sport's broken show.

But just two weeks later in Malaysia, Sebastian Vettel beat both silver cars in just his second race for a strongly resurgent Ferrari.

"We beat them fair and square," said the beaming German, even though some suggested it was a strategy error for Mercedes amid the early safety car that contributed.

But Ferrari, already strong in Australia, were neck-and-neck with Mercedes throughout the Sepang weekend, and in crucial 'long run' pace even looked marginally better than the reigning world champions from the very beginning in Friday practice.

"Ferrari is back," Vettel's engineer told him on the radio.

Melbourne winner and reigning champion Hamilton agreed, privately telling Vettel before the podium ceremony that the red car was "so quick" this weekend.

"Geez, they had some good pace today," Hamilton told Eddie Jordan on the podium. "They were too fast for us."

So after all the political talk about 'equalization', defeated Mercedes chief Wolff said it had been a bad day for Mercedes but "a good day for formula one".

Hamilton said Ferrari's win will make some unnamed people in the paddock "eat their words".

"Hopefully all the nonsense about equalization stops now," agreed Wolff.

At the very minimum, Ferrari's success in 'equalizing' Mercedes' pace in the conventional manner in Malaysia has dented Red Bull's political push.

It leaves the energy drink-owned camp needing to patch up its broken relationship with Renault and push forwards.

With Vettel having lapped both Red Bulls on Sunday, Dr Helmut Marko told German television Sky that the team is now working hard to improve hand-in-hand with its engine supplier.

"In Australia there was a lot of emotion," he said, "but we have now found a way forward. Thank god it has already looked better here."

But Marko said Red Bull is still looking towards F1's "stakeholders", especially after both the team and Renault threatened to quit the sport.

"That is why all the stakeholders, not just Red Bull and Renault but also the FIA and the commercial rights holder (must look at) how a company like Renault can again get the necessary value from F1 that makes sense," he said.

So he doesn't think even Ferrari's victory on Sunday is evidence enough that the controversial engine regulations are actually able to work for the sport.

"Ferrari was very strong here," admitted Marko, "but they also have a very good car and the tire wear is very good and Sebastian Vettel loves this track.

"Without doubt they have made a great leap forward with the engine, but under normal circumstances they are still more than half a second away from Mercedes.

"That is not enough," said Marko. "There is also the high temperatures (in Malaysia) and the specific track, while Mercedes did not find the ideal setup.

"The general balance of power has not yet changed," he claimed.

Lewis Hamilton's contract situation continues to linger

No Hamilton contract news for 'few more days'
(GMM) The Malaysian grand prix weekend started and ended without Lewis Hamilton's new Mercedes contract being announced.

The reigning world champion entered the Sepang weekend hinting that a deal is now close, after long and repeatedly protracted negotiations.

A Spanish newspaper even claimed Hamilton's signature is now on the page.

But as the checkered flag waved on Sunday, team boss Toto Wolff told the German broadcaster Sky that Mercedes will now fly out of Malaysia without any contract news being unveiled.

"It will probably take a few more days," he said, "but I'm optimistic.

"We want to stay with the current world champion and he wants to stay with us," added Wolff. "That is clear.

"Contract negotiations drag out sometimes," he explained, "as you go into the details, but it is moving forward."

Sepang has extended its deal with F1 through 2018.

Malaysia announces new F1 race deal
(GMM) Malaysia will continue to host a grand prix for at least the next three years.

As the checkered flag waved on Sepang's seventeenth F1 race on Sunday, the office of the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak issued a media statement.

It said Sepang has extended its race deal "for another three years until 2018".

Earlier, the track and Bernie Ecclestone were negotiating about the race fee.

"The contract for the extension was signed today following the successful negotiations between Sepang (circuit) and Formula One Management," read the statement.

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