Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Raikkonen thinks Ferrari has good race pace

    Alonso set for medical checks on Sunday

  • Bottas recovering from back injury in Indonesia
  • Sauber surprised by van der Garde 'accusations'
  • Race pace gap to Mercedes not huge – Raikkonen
  • New rules made for 'right reasons' – Williams
  • Wolff reveals Hamilton bought Ferrari supercar
  • Bianchi points reason Manor survived – Booth
  • Red Bull asked for 'fierce' development – Renault

Alonso set for medical checks on Sunday
(GMM) Fernando Alonso will undergo medical tests conducted by the FIA on Sunday.

The broadcaster Sky Italia said the Spaniard needs the governing body's green-light in order to return to the cockpit of his McLaren-Honda in Malaysia next weekend.

Almost a month since his mysterious Barcelona testing crash and subsequent hospitalization, Alonso was back in the driver simulator on Wednesday at McLaren's Woking headquarters.

The British team said he focused on "operational work" whilst practicing "qualifying and race procedures".

"Great day today", Alonso agreed. "Lots of meetings and simulator work," he told his more than 2.2 million followers.

Bottas recovering from back injury in Indonesia
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas is recovering from his back injury in Indonesia, the Williams team has confirmed.

The Finn had to sit out the Melbourne season opener last Sunday after suffering a torn disc in his back during the qualifying hour.

Reports said he subsequently travelled from Australia to Indonesia to prepare for the time-zone and heat of Malaysia, even though his participation in the second round of the world championship is not yet guaranteed.

According to the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, Bottas is working in Indonesia with his fitness coach Antti Vierula and a physiotherapist.

"We are doing everything we can to help the process of getting him back to full fitness," a spokesman for the British team told the Daily Mail.

Turun Sanomat said it is likely Bottas will eventually need surgery to completely heal the injury, just as Kimi Raikkonen did at the end of 2013.

"The driver's lower back gets really heavy loads on it because of the braking," former double world champion Mika Hakkinen told Ilta Sanomat newspaper.

Sauber surprised by van der Garde 'accusations'
(GMM) Sauber has admitted it was "surprised" to read ousted driver Giedo van der Garde's media statement on Wednesday.

After the courtroom battle of Melbourne, the two sides have reached a settlement that reportedly involves the return of the Dutch driver's sponsorship payments, legal fees and compensation to the tune of EUR 15 million.

But in a statement on Wednesday, van der Garde was heavily critical of the Hinwil based team, accusing Sauber of ending his "dream" of racing in F1.

The 29-year-old claimed pushing ahead with his legal action "might have brought down" the 22-year-old F1 team and even resulted in the jailing of Monisha Kaltenborn.

Van der Garde claims his sponsors "helped the team survive" last year, and criticized Sauber's "bizarre" handling of his case and its questionable "values and business ethics".

Sauber responded to the statement by saying it was "rather surprised" to read van der Garde's claims and criticisms.

"We don't know about Giedo's intentions," the team said. "He may try to present himself as a winner, while we had actually hoped to come to rest after our agreement.

"Giedo decided to take a different approach — the reasoning behind we cannot understand.

"We'd have very good answers to the many statements and accusations in Giedo's post," Sauber added, "but to expand on this wouldn't help our race team nor our fans and partners.

"It would only encourage a mud fight via the media and we will not lend ourselves to that.

"With this in mind we'd like to encourage you to form your own opinion about what happened, however critical it may be," the team, concluded its Facebook post with the hashtag 'LetsRaceNotFight', added.

Race pace gap to Mercedes not huge – Raikkonen
(GMM) Mercedes could have a race on its hands in 2015.

After Melbourne, Christian Horner claimed the advantage now wielded by the silver team is bigger than at any time during Red Bull's four-year title reign.

Indeed, Lewis Hamilton qualified 1.4 seconds clear of the next-best team in Melbourne, even though he finished just 34 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari in the race.

It triggered rumors Mercedes 'sandbagged' in the grand prix.

"I can assure you that we did not," boss Toto Wolff insists to Auto Motor und Sport.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen backs that theory. The Finn had a troubled race in Melbourne, but he says he was "fast" last Sunday despite damage to the floor and wing.

"Obviously we are not fast enough yet," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace, "but I think the difference in the race is much smaller than it is in qualifying."

New rules made for 'right reasons' – Williams
(GMM) Williams has become the next team to back F1's current regulations.

After Mercedes' dominance of the Melbourne opener, Red Bull was so critical of the new-in-2014 turbo V6 formula that it threatened to quit the sport.

But so far, no team has come out to back Red Bull's strident stance.

"The changes were made for the right reasons," Williams deputy team boss Claire Williams told Forbes.

"From my perspective as a commercial director, the change in the engine regulations has definitely alleviated pressure talking to companies that look at formula one as a sport and are put off by the environmental questions around it," she was quoted by journalists Kate Hewitt and Christian Sylt.

The journalists claim Williams' estimated increase of almost $55 million in sponsorship over the past year is more than any other F1 team.

"I think we need to tell the story around these new engines," Claire Williams continued.

"I don't think it is a story that has been told enough yet and I think that would do us more favor if we did. But I do believe that from an environmental perspective it was the right way to go."

Wolff reveals Hamilton bought Ferrari supercar
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has had contact with Ferrari, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has admitted.

Paddock rumors in Australia suggested that, as he conducts his own negotiations for a new contract beyond 2015, the British driver had been in touch with Ferrari.

Wolff doesn't deny it.

"Sure, Lewis has had contact with Ferrari," he confirmed to Germany's Sport Bild, before grinning: "He has just bought a LaFerrari."

LaFerrari is an ultra-rare Ferrari supercar, so it is interesting that Hamilton – the reigning world champion for Mercedes – has so openly bought one.

Indeed, long before Sebastian Vettel's move from Red Bull, the German bought a Ferrari road car but had to keep it a secret.

But Wolff said of Hamilton's purchase: "We have no problem with that."

Indeed, both sides say they are now close to agreeing terms for a new Mercedes contract for 2016 and beyond.

But if Hamilton were to leave Mercedes, the most coveted cockpit in F1 would open up and Wolff has already said Fernando Alonso is in pole position to fill it.

Eric Boullier, boss of the struggling McLaren-Honda team, told Spain's El Pais newspaper he is "not at all" worried the Spaniard could jump ship to Mercedes after just a single year.

Bianchi points reason Manor survived – Booth
(GMM) Manor boss John Booth says the team would not have been resurrected without Jules Bianchi.

Frenchman Bianchi, critically injured in an horror crash whilst driving for Manor's former guise Marussia late last season, is still laying in a coma.

"I think of Jules almost every day," Booth told France's Auto Hebdo, "and he should have been with us in Melbourne to share our joy.

"We were not able to put the cars on the track, but we nonetheless won our fight. I would like Jules to also win his."

Booth says Manor's emergence from administration and near-collapse can be traced back to May of 2014, when Bianchi scored two crucial points.

It secured millions in official F1 prize-money for the struggling team that it is now set to collect in 2015.

"Without him (Bianchi), without those two points he got in Monaco last year, we would not be here," said Booth.

"In the end, that is what convinced the new investors of the potential of the team.

"Being here now is our way of saying to Jules that the race is not over until the checkered flag has fallen. I don't know if our presence at the track is any help to his parents, but I hope it is, however small and insignificant.

"We are the first to emerge from the worst ordeal Manor has ever been through, and I have no doubt that Jules will succeed as well," said Booth.

"What we were able to rebuild over the winter shows that faith can move mountains, and that there is always hope as long as you believe.

"Jules, your team is with you," he added.

Red Bull asked for 'fierce' development – Renault
(GMM) Renault has revealed it took an unusually-aggressive approach to the 2015 season opener, at works partner Red Bull's behest.

Amid Red Bull's disastrous start to the new world championship in Australia, the energy drink-owned team lashed out at Renault for taking a "retrograde" step both in the power and reliability stakes.

Now, Renault is hitting back.

"We had a last-minute engine development," said Cyril Abiteboul, "in which we bypassed our normal quality and test bench validation processes.

"It was these changes that caused the problems in Melbourne, and it is what we are now focusing on at the factory prior to Sepang," he told the French daily L'Equipe.

Abiteboul claimed: "We were very aggressive because Red Bull wanted us to develop fiercely. Now we have to ask ourselves how we could forget our traditional methods.

"We have been manufacturing F1 engines for 37 years," he insisted. "We know what we need to do."

Although Red Bull is predicting a "dull" season full of Mercedes dominance, Abiteboul said Renault cannot be so easily written off.

"If we had said before the 2014 season that we would win three grands prix, you would have laughed at us," he said.

"Will we be playing for wins in the short term? No. But we will be back. In order to fight on par with Mercedes, we need some more time."

The tetchy media exchanges between Red Bull and Renault indicate that the partnership is now in the throes of divorce.

In the short term, Abiteboul has asked Red Bull for some space to sort out its problems.

"We won together for years, and currently we are having problems together," he said of the Red Bull-Renault pairing.

"So far, we have followed and listened to the directives of Red Bull, but clearly the chassis and the engine are two different universes.

"Everybody should be able to do his job in peace," Abiteboul insisted.

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