Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Bottas back for Malaysia this weekend

    Manor told it must run cars in Malaysia

  • Mosley tells moaning Red Bull to 'live with it'
  • Now Force India signs low-profile development driver
  • Williams confirms Bottas return
  • FIA declares Alonso 'fit to race'
  • Alonso declares 'locked steering' caused crash
  • Bottas tweaks car after back injury
  • Williams signs Sutil as 2015 reserve New
  • Red Bull fracas just 'frustration' – Ricciardo New
  • Vettel turns down Rosberg's debrief invite New
  • Manor fires up Ferrari engine at Sepang New

Manor told it must run cars in Malaysia
(GMM) Manor has been told it must fire its engines this weekend in Malaysia.

In Australia, where the former Marussia team stayed in the pits all weekend, suspicions arose that Manor never even intended to exit the Albert Park pits.

"They couldn't have raced if someone had gone there with a machine gun and put it to their head," said a furious Bernie Ecclestone.

Like the FIA, F1's chief executive suspected Manor travelled to Australia merely to satisfy its contractual obligations and collect millions in 2014 prize money.

Ecclestone has hit back by saying the team will be billed for its travel freight from the UK.

And he has now told the Independent that Manor will be punished further.

"We will (also) deduct the race they missed from the prize money," said Ecclestone, according to correspondents Christian Sylt and Luke Smith.

The FIA investigated Manor in Australia and found that the team in fact made "all reasonable endeavors" to run the cars.

But the governing body will reportedly not be as understanding this weekend in Malaysia.

"If they (Manor) don't get out of the garage in Malaysia," the Telegraph newspaper reports, "the sport will come down on them hard."

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport agreed: "No explanations or excuses will be tolerated for the Malaysian grand prix.

"The FIA has made clear that they want to see both cars on the track at the second race of the year."

Max Mosley
Max Mosley

Mosley tells moaning Red Bull to 'live with it'
(GMM) Max Mosley has told those complaining about the F1 rules to "live with it".

As Red Bull protests bitterly about Mercedes' domination amid arguably overly-complex and foolhardy regulations, Dr Helmut Marko pointed his finger at the FIA.

"We need a leadership in formula one that can force decisions," he told Speed Week. "Just as it was under Max Mosley."

Mosley, who was succeeded by the low-profile Jean Todt as FIA president, reportedly scoffed at the suggestion, telling the Times that only unanimity could force a change.

"And I very much doubt that they will all agree," said the 74-year-old.

"They all signed up to this and they have to live with it."

Mosley said any team complaining about the rules on the basis that one competitor is overly dominant is "very much pots and kettles".

"They never complain about domination when they are dominating, just when they are on the wrong end of what is happening," he insisted.

"Domination is in the nature of the sport, going right back to the mid-1950s when Mercedes dominated then."

Mosley separately told the City A.M. publication, however, that the way the sport's almost $1 billion prize fund is distributed could be done "more fairly".

He told correspondents Christian Sylt and Kate Hewitt that "the effect of having vastly more money is exactly the same as having a bigger engine".

But Mosley also blames F1's competitors.

"The teams have spent too much and the manufacturers are charging far too much for their engines," he told the Times.

"Now the signs are that one team will dominate the sport for two or three years to come, and there is nothing anyone can do about it unless they all agree. And that is not going to happen," Mosley added.

Now Force India signs low-profile development driver
(GMM) Force India has become the next F1 team to court controversy with its signing of a 'development driver'.

Lotus has faced criticism of trading credibility for money, as it unveiled first Carmen Jorda and then Adderly Fong as the newest members of the Enstone team.

Between the pair, they have contested five seasons of GP3, for a collective haul of 2 points.

Taki Inoue, remembered as an average 'pay driver' in F1, remarked on his humorous Twitter profile: "It seems bank account development driver is getting popular in F1."

Now, another driver with an extremely low profile has joined the ranks of F1 development drivers — Steven Goldstein.

The top three results in a Google search refer to Goldstein the lawyer, Goldstein the masseur, and a 57-year-old Steven Goldstein who passed away last week.

But Steven Goldstein, the 31-year-old Colombian racer, has been signed up by Force India to be a development driver for the Silverstone based team in 2015, according to foreign-language media reports.

In recent years, Goldstein has raced in GT sports cars, and last year drove a Lamborghini Gallardo to second place in the Italian championship.

Williams confirms Bottas return
(GMM) Williams on Thursday confirmed Valtteri Bottas' return to action in Malaysia.

The Finn sat out the Melbourne season opener with a torn disc in his lower back, but has since been working on his recovery with a physiotherapist.

"Following final approval by the FIA medical team in Malaysia today, we are pleased to confirm that Valtteri will be back in the FW37 this weekend for the Malaysian grand prix," the British team said in a media statement on Thursday.

The outcome of McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso's FIA checks on Thursday is not yet known.
FIA declares Alonso 'fit to race'
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has been declared fit to return to the cockpit of his McLaren-Honda this weekend.

The Spaniard had already been given the green light prior to travelling to Malaysia this week by a panel of FIA-nominated doctors at Cambridge university.

But he also had to satisfy FIA medical delegate Jean-Charles Piette on Thursday, as well as Sepang's resident doctor.

The FIA announced that Alonso duly passed all the "mandatory fitness tests" on Thursday.

McLaren confirmed the news that its star driver is "fit to race".

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Alonso declares 'locked steering' caused crash
(GMM) Fernando Alonso on Thursday said he crashed in Barcelona last month because his steering "locked".

The news has thickened the already convoluted plot even more, after weeks of rumors, speculation and contradiction in what will be remembered as one of the most bizarre incidents in the history of F1.

Mere days ago, McLaren insisted that there is no evidence the crash was caused by a car problem, except that Alonso recalls 'heavy' steering.

We reported rumors the 33-year-old's steering actually "locked".

Alonso confirmed those rumors on Thursday ahead of the Malaysian grand prix.

"We definitely had a steering problem — it locked to the right," he told ranks of reporters in the FIA press conference.

In another contradiction, Alonso denies suffering any loss of memory of the incident, and said he was conscious before, during and afterwards.

"There is a time that I don't remember in the hospital," said the Spaniard, but he said he only lost consciousness due to medication administered in the circuit medical center before being airlifted by helicopter.

"I remember everything. I was perfectly conscious," said Alonso. "I didn't wake up in 1995, or speaking in Italian, or any other things that were out there."

As for McLaren and Ron Dennis' theory that a gust of wind blew him off the track, Alonso said even "a hurricane wouldn't have blown the car off at that speed".

"No, no. Definitely not," he said of the wind theory.

As Alonso spoke, the brows of the listening journalists furrowed. Some of them let the two-time world champion know that his answers have simply multiplied the confusion about the February 22 incident.

"Probably the first press conferences and quotes that the team gave was just some guessing," he explained, adding that his hospitalization in intensive care caused "high stress" and an "urgency" for the team to brief the media.

"That probably created a bit of confusion."

He dismissed claims a pre-existing medical condition was the cause, saying that he is "perfectly healthy" and in the wake of numerous tests and checks joked that he is now "the most medically-checked driver in history".

However, if Alonso's claims about 'locked' steering are true, he might be forgiven for feeling nervous about returning to the cockpit given that McLaren has not found a technical reason for the crash.

"Not really," he answered when asked if he is worried.

"It was clear that there was a problem with the car, but it's not found in the data. I understand completely and support the team.

"I have zero doubts, zero concerns."

He said he was using a different "steering rack" for his personal driving preference in Barcelona, but has now returned to the standard layout run by teammate Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.

Alonso also confirmed that new sensors have been added to the car that will help detect similar faults in the future.

"I fully trust the team," he said, "and they've spent a month changing every single part that they had any doubts about."

Alonso smiled: "I think we have the safest car now."

Bottas gets himself comfortable in Williams
Bottas gets himself comfortable in Williams

Bottas tweaks car after back injury
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas says modifications have been made to his car ahead of the Malaysian grand prix.

The Finn got clearance from FIA doctors on Thursday to return for Williams this weekend in Malaysia, after tearing a disc in his lower back two weeks ago.

His manager, Mika Hakkinen, speculated that a problem with his seat may have caused the problem over the bumps in Melbourne.

"We have a good idea what caused it," Bottas confirmed at Sepang, "and have changed the seat and pedal positions.

"My back is now in more of a neutral position."

He said he is confident the problems will not arise again, and denied speculation that surgery to completely correct the issue will be necessary.

"I am completely pain free," said Bottas, "at least in normal kind of stuff and we will see when driving."

Williams signs Sutil as 2015 reserve
(GMM) After a quiet winter for the experienced 32-year-old, Adrian Sutil has kept his formula one dream alive.

Some Le Mans rumors and a low-profile legal dispute with Sauber aside, little has been heard from Sutil since the German's 2015 contract was not honored by the struggling Swiss team.

But on Thursday, the British outfit Williams announced that it has signed the veteran of more than 100 grands prix as its new reserve driver.

Two weeks ago in Australia, Williams had to admit it did not have an official reserve on the books.

So when Valtteri Bottas was injured, despite early speculation tester Susie Wolff might get the nod, it was believed Mercedes' Pascal Wehrlein was put on standby for Malaysia.

Bottas has recovered, but it is at the scene of Sunday's Sepang race that Williams in fact announced Sutil as its new official reserve.

The German then strolled into the hot Malaysian paddock wearing team gear and had a seat fitting in Bottas' cockpit.

If Finn Bottas' back problems recur on Friday, the team will have enough time to get Sutil up to speed so that Williams is not once again reduced to a points-sapping one-car outfit for the race.

"The fight for a top constructors' championship position will be intense this season," said team boss Sir Frank Williams, "therefore we have selected a driver with recent race experience and are confident that if the need arose, he would be a solid pair of hands to race the FW37 and assist our 2015 campaign."

Red Bull fracas just 'frustration' – Ricciardo
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo has dismissed as "frustration" the unseemly spat between Red Bull and its works engine partner Renault.

After Melbourne, it became clear that while Ferrari has markedly improved its engine over the winter, Renault arguably went backwards.

Red Bull figures including Adrian Newey, Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko lashed out, but Renault's Cyril Abiteboul hit back at what he called "lies".

The two sides appear headed for definite divorce, but at the same time Red Bull is railing against the current technical rules, arguing that Mercedes' domination needs to be reined in before it "kills" the sport.

The team has even threatened to quit F1.

"I think it's purely a bit of frustration for now," Australian Ricciardo, the lead driver for Red Bull, said on Thursday.

"Obviously Red Bull's a winning team, they want results and it's … I guess it's still very early to start talking about this," he added.

"I think some people felt they just had to get a few things off their chest — say what you've got to say, I guess. But now we're at a race weekend, it's time to put our head down and focus on improving," Ricciardo added.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on Thursday were also asked about Red Bull's calls for 'equalization' measures to reign in the dominance.

Hamilton called it "funny", while German Rosberg was less amused.

"I find it unbelievable that such claims are coming, especially after just one race," he exclaimed.

Vettel turns down Rosberg's debrief invite
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has turned down Nico Rosberg's invitation to attend his engineering briefing in Malaysia.

In Australia, the rival Germans exchanged verbal blows in the press conference when Rosberg suggested he would be happy if Vettel's Ferrari caught up.

"Engineers room, debrief — I'll be there," Vettel grinned.

"Friday, Malaysia, ok," said Rosberg.

Rosberg duly arranged with his Mercedes bosses Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff to allow Vettel to attend the briefing, announcing the news in a major German newspaper and on his Facebook account.

And in the team's official pre-race preview, Rosberg was quoted as saying: "I'm particularly looking forward to welcoming our special guest Mr. Vettel to the Friday engineering meeting."

On the eve of the meeting, however, Vettel told the media he sniffs a PR stunt.

"I got the growing impression that the story was degenerating into a PR stunt," he was quoted at Sepang by Auto Motor und Sport.

"It was all a bit staged for my taste.

"I think I will better use my time on Friday to go to our briefings at Ferrari," added Vettel, insisting the Italian team is "intelligent" enough without Mercedes' help.

Rosberg was disappointed to hear it, dismissing the theory that it was just a stunt.

"Sebastian really could have come," he said. "Maybe there would have been two or three details that we would not have put on the table, but he could have listened to what I feel from the car and how it behaved in practice."

Manor fires up Ferrari engine at Sepang
(GMM) By the sound of it, Manor appears on course to hit the track this weekend for the first time in 2015.

The former Marussia team tried the patience of the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone in Australia, when it stayed silent in the pits all weekend.

Reportedly, amid suspicions the team is simply turning up at the early races to qualify for its millions in 2014 prize-money, Manor has been warned that more silence will not be tolerated.

So on a hot Thursday evening at Sepang, the news came: "Sweet, sweet music from our garage and our Ferrari powertrain, as we complete our planned fire-up," Manor announced on Twitter.

Earlier, team boss John Booth told the press he is "100 per cent" certain Manor will get out on track this weekend.

Spanish driver Roberto Merhi said: "I know how much work has gone into getting us fully operational again and it will be great for everyone to finally see wheels turning."

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