Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below)

03/24/15

  • Max Mosley

    Verstappen feared GP2 would 'stall' career

  • Marko says Max Mosley would fix F1
  • Sepang 'not satisfied' with new F1 deal
  • F1 set for first wet race of 2015
  • Fong buys Lotus development role
  • Marciello pays to replace Nasr in first practice
  • China's ChemChina to buy Pirelli for $7.7bn
  • Hakkinen 'expected more' from Raikkonen New
  • Silver lining for McLaren is good chassis New
  • Bottas 'back to normal' – manager New

Verstappen feared GP2 would 'stall' career
(GMM) Max Verstappen says he jumped at the chance to become F1's youngest-ever race driver for fear his career would otherwise stall.

The 17-year-old, whose meteoric rise from karts to formula one within a year has been highly controversial, also received an offer from Mercedes in 2014.

The German marque offered to make Verstappen its reserve driver for 2015 whilst gaining experience in GP2.

Ultimately, Verstappen jumped at the chance to leap immediately into F1 with Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso.

"I thought about what happened with Raffaele Marciello," the Dutchman admitted to Germany's Auto Bild.

He is referring to the 20-year-old Swiss-born Italian, who won the FIA European F3 title in 2013 but then faltered last year in GP2, finishing just eighth.

"He (Marciello) was the king of formula 3," said Verstappen, "but suddenly his career stalled in GP2."

Marciello, now the leading member of Ferrari's driver academy, has switched GP2 teams for 2015 and is also the reserve driver for Sauber.

He will make his first grand prix appearance for the Ferrari-powered Swiss team this weekend in Malaysia, in Friday practice.

Marko says Max Mosley would fix F1
(GMM) As F1 speeds towards its next battleground, the debate about the very future of the sport will also resume in Malaysia.

After the Melbourne opener, Red Bull furiously slammed the current regulations and threatened to pull out if they are not changed soon.

"According to our research," Dr Helmut Marko told Speed Week, "the television viewing decline in 2014 was 26 per cent.

"So if that keeps happening and the regulations stay the same, then we must ask: what is the sporting and commercial value of formula one?"

The Austrian insists he is not just railing against Red Bull's performance deficit in 2015, but the appearance that the cars are "easy to drive".

"This is an argument not only we are making," Marko insists. "Any rookie can now be immediately competitive because the cars are easy to master on the limit and also in terms of power the GP2 cars are almost the same."

Red Bull has proposed a standard turbo and KERS package capable of 1,000 horse power.

But the sport will not take a sharp turn with the rules unless Red Bull finds allies willing to vote with them.

"Do we need new formula one cars?" Williams' Pat Symonds is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"First, we need a set of rules that is sustainable and sufficient for teams to survive. I'm not so sure that cars with a new look or 1,000 horse power will help formula one too much."

Not surprisingly, the dominant Mercedes team agrees with its customer.

"My personal view is that the sport itself does not need anything drastic to change," said team boss Toto Wolff.

"Nevertheless, we must remain open and participate in the discussion and see what we can do to improve formula one."

Marko, however, is not only critical of what he describes as Mercedes' "understandable" defiance in the face of its dominance.

He also blames the FIA.

"Only when no one watches formula one anymore will they (Mercedes) question the value of their victories," said Marko.

"We need a leadership in formula one that can force decisions," he insisted. "Just as it was under FIA president Max Mosley."

2015 could be the last for Sepang
2015 could be the last for Sepang

Sepang 'not satisfied' with new F1 deal
(GMM) As the F1 circus touches down in Malaysia, it is possible this week's race will be the seventeenth and last at Sepang.

Early this year, Malaysian race officials travelled to London to discuss their expiring contract with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Now, on the eve of the 2015 edition, a deal for next year and beyond still has not been struck.

It is obvious the stumbling block is Ecclestone's race fee demands.

"We are still in discussion with Formula One Management and studying the latest terms of agreement," said Sepang chairman Mokhzani Mahathir.

"We want a win-win situation," he is quoted by Bernama news agency. "There are several issues which I'm still not very satisfied and if we can discuss this further, we will renew the contract for another three years."

The Sepang chief also revealed that reigning champions Mercedes have extended their title sponsorship deal with Petronas, the government-owned Malaysian oil company.

"It is learnt that Petronas has extended its sponsorship of Mercedes AMG team for another three years, and as such, it will be an impetus to hold the F1 in Sepang," said Mokhzani.

F1 set for first wet race of 2015
(GMM) F1 looks to be heading into its first wet race of the season.

The current weekend forecast for Sepang indicates a high probability of rain and afternoon storms, even though the weather is notoriously difficult to predict in Kuala Lumpur.

Easier to predict, however, is that if it does rain at Sepang, it is usually in the late afternoon and almost always very heavy.

In January, Pirelli chief Paul Hembery renewed his call for specific rain-tire testing.

"We always say that we should thoroughly test rain tires before the start of the season at least once, preferably on a track that can be completely drenched, such as Le Castellet or Fiorano," he is quoted by Speed Week.

Hembery said the tests would not only help Pirelli perfect its wet weather designs, but also allow the drivers to get used to the tires.

Ahead of 2015, the rain tests did not take place.

That is also despite the fact that, after Jules Bianchi's horror crash at wet Suzuka late last year, the governing FIA urged the sport to do more rain-tire testing.

"It is recommended that provision is made for the tire supplier to develop and adequately test wet weather tires between each F1 season, such that it is able to supply the latest developments to the first event," the FIA said in its official report on Bianchi's crash.

Adderly Fong
Adderly Fong

Fong buys Lotus development role
Adderly Fong has joined the Lotus Formula 1 team as a development driver.

The 25-year-old Hong Kong racer, who made his practice debut with Sauber in Abu Dhabi last year, will conduct a "driver development program", which will include virtual running in the team's simulator.

Fong joins Carmen Jorda as a Lotus development driver, while Jolyon Palmer is the outfit's reserve.

"This is a great opportunity to further my racing career," Fong commented.

"I'll be able to learn how an F1 team operates during race weekends as an integral part of the team and these invaluable experiences are going to lay the foundations of my future development as an F1 driver.

"I am happy but I am not going to get carried away, for this is only the first of many steps.

"I aim to become the first Chinese driver to compete in a Formula 1 Grand Prix which will assist to promote the sport in China and also in Hong Kong.

"There is great potential for me with Lotus F1 Team so I can't wait to get underway in my new role."

Fong will combine his Formula 1 duties with GP3 and GT Asia campaigns.

Marciello pays to replace Nasr in first practice
Sauber has confirmed that Felipe Nasr will step aside for test and reserve driver Raffaele Marciello during first practice at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Ferrari Driver Academy member Marciello announced his planned outing earlier this month, but did not specify who, out of Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, he would be replacing.

Marciello, who is also preparing to contest his second GP2 season, has previous experience of Formula 1 machinery, having tested for Ferrari in Abu Dhabi in November.

"It will be exciting to drive the Sauber C34-Ferrari for the first time. That will also be the same for the Italians, as we have not had an Italian driver in Formula 1 for quite a few years," said Marciello.

"I will definitely enjoy the experience, and I am really looking forward to it. I am confident I can do a good job as well as supporting the team in order to find a set-up for the car which suits the track.

"I have never been to Malaysia before, but I know the track quite well from the Ferrari simulator in Maranello, and I am sure I can get to learn it fast once I drive there.

"From a driver's perspective it will be a challenge, but this is the same for everyone. Together with my trainer, I am getting well prepared for this weekend."

Nasr will return to the cockpit for Friday afternoon's second session.

China's ChemChina to buy Pirelli for $7.7bn
Formula 1's official tire supplier, Pirelli, is set to change hands next month following news that China's state-owned China National Chemicals (ChemChina) has launched a takeover bid.

The Italian company has been F1's sole supplier since 2011 and has a contract through to 2016, when a new tender will be released.

The deal will see ChemChina's own tire division, China National Tire & Rubber, take ownership of a 26.2 per cent stake currently controlled by the family of chairman Marco Tronchetti, before launching a bid to acquire the remaining shares.

The takeover values the company at $7.7bn

ChemChina will appoint a new chairman whilst Tronchetti, who began working at the company in 1986 after marrying a member of the Italian family that founded Pirelli, will remain in his role of chief executive.

It's unclear what affect the sale might have on Pirelli's involvement in the sport and whether a change in chairman and future objectives could see it pulling out of any future tenders.

Hakkinen 'expected more' from Raikkonen
(GMM) Mika Hakkinen says he was disappointed with the performance of his countryman Kimi Raikkonen in Australia.

When he retired at the end of 2001, Hakkinen recommended McLaren sign Raikkonen to replace him, telling Ron Dennis 'If you want to win, get the Finn'.

Raikkonen won races at McLaren and the title at Ferrari in 2007, but he was pushed out of his seat at the end of 2009. After a rallying sojourn, he came back to F1 in 2012 and ultimately reclaimed his place at Ferrari.

But the 35-year-old struggled notably alongside Fernando Alonso last year, and now alongside his friend Sebastian Vettel in 2015, Raikkonen was narrowly outperformed by the German throughout the Melbourne season opener.

"I definitely expected more from Kimi" in Australia, former double world champion Hakkinen admitted to Hermes.

"I expected him to have the advantage over Vettel because he has been at Ferrari longer. But Vettel really put Kimi behind him on the first weekend of the season," Hakkinen added.

Fascinatingly, Hakkinen is involved in the management of another Finn, the rising star Valtteri Bottas, who has been mentioned as a potential replacement for Raikkonen at the end of his 2015 contract.

But David Coulthard agrees with Hakkinen, his former long-time McLaren teammate, that Raikkonen was left trailing in Vettel's wake in Melbourne.

"The old Sebastian is back," Coulthard told Germany's Sport Bild. "And he has brought a winning mentality to Ferrari.

"Just as he made Toro Rosso and Red Bull winning teams, there is now the chance he will also do that at Ferrari."

Silver lining for McLaren is good chassis
(GMM) A silver lining for struggling McLaren-Honda could be the cornering ability of the new MP4-30 car.

After Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen qualified dead last in Melbourne, some estimates put the team's power deficit to pacesetters Mercedes at as much as 150-200 horse power.

But the silver lining could be the chassis.

"The drivers say it is a good car," team boss Eric Boullier is quoted by Spain's Marca, "that it gives them confidence and has no vices."

It is believed Honda de-tuned its engine, and particularly the power unit's ERS systems, to the tune of some 60 per cent in Melbourne, due to reliability fears.

"We had to lower performance in Australia," Frenchman Boullier confirmed, "but there is more potential on the way."

Indeed, it is rumored Honda took a very aggressive approach to its V6 design, realizing the gap that eventually needed to be closed to Mercedes.

Button confirmed: "It's probably wrong for me to say … it's probably more like a Mercedes than it is the other two manufacturers. In terms of design, aggressiveness and packaging.

"But it's going to take a little bit of time."

Also on the bright side, it emerged on Tuesday that the 2015 McLaren chassis is almost certainly a good one.

F1's official website calculates 'cornering ratings' for each driver after races, by averaging the side-to-side G-forces in every corner across a grand prix.

Button's cornering rating ranked fourth overall in Australia, behind only the two Mercedes drivers and Felipe Massa.

Bottas 'back to normal' – manager
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas' manager on Tuesday said he expects the Finn to return to action this weekend in Malaysia.

After sitting out Melbourne with his injured lower back and recovering in Indonesia last week, the 25-year-old Finn arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

He will be at the Sepang circuit on Wednesday.

It emerges, however, that Williams has engine partner Mercedes' reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein on standby, should Bottas not be declared fit to race.

"We're fully supportive of Valtteri's determination to race in Malaysia," said the Grove team, "but he will need final approval from the FIA medics on Thursday."

Bottas' manager, Didier Coton, is confident.

"Valtteri is in very good shape," he told the BBC.

"He will have to take the FIA medical, which I expect him to pass. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't pass it — he tells me he is back to normal."

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