Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Vettel gives his Ferrari a nickname

    Vettel names first Ferrari 'Eva'

  • Sauber fights for survival in Melbourne court
  • Red Bull pushing to run short nose in Melbourne
  • Wolff hits out at wind tunnel ban proposal
  • Dennis now admits Alonso crash 'a mystery'
  • Ecclestone's TV strategy worries sponsors – report
  • Sauber loses appeal, Perez backs van der Garde New
  • FIA still investigating Alonso crash New
  • Whitmarsh joins Newey at America's Cup team New
  • Williams and Oris Continue Long Standing Partnership New

Vettel names first Ferrari 'Eva'
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has named his first Ferrari 'Eva'.

The quadruple world champion has continued his personal tradition of giving his F1 machine a female nickname after switching from Red Bull to the fabled Maranello team.

The big question now is whether 'Eva' is able to take the title fight to dominant Mercedes in 2015.

"It would be nice if he could make our lives difficult," Nico Rosberg said in Melbourne. "But I think it will take them a while."

What is clear is that Ferrari is publicly delighted with its new number 1 driver, after losing Fernando Alonso to McLaren-Honda.

"The Italians always need a driver to look up to," Niki Lauda, who knows that role well, is quoted by the German-language publication Focus.

"Sebastian is now in the position Schumacher once was," said the Mercedes team chairman.

New Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne confirmed the feeling in the paddock that Ferrari is putting all its eggs in the Vettel basket after Alonso's departure.

Speaking of the Spaniard, Marchionne told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "It was not an easy marriage for him with Ferrari.

"Maybe it was right that this era came to an end after five years. It was probably better that way for both sides," he insisted.

Marchionne made clear that the future is called Vettel, as the 27-year-old successfully combines "tranquility with wisdom, which is not easy for a young man".

He is also happy with 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who is "not the Kimi that we saw last season. He is the Kimi that we knew before".

Sauber fights for survival in Melbourne court
(GMM) Sauber is fighting for survival in a Melbourne court.

The Swiss team has appealed a local judge's ruling that Giedo van der Garde can take his rightful place on the 2015 grid, despite Sauber's other binding contracts with Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.

So as the proceedings took place early on Thursday, the big question being asked in the paddock was whether Sauber can even survive the saga.

"Thank you Ms. Kaltenborn," a reader of the Swiss portal said. "You have managed to destroy a life's work in three years."

The publication floated a rumor that van der Garde, backed by his billionaire father-in-law Marcel Boekhoorn, might be playing the long game by actually hoping for Sauber's collapse.

"The question of does he really want to drive does arise," said MTV3 commentator Oskari Saari. "Sauber has made clear it does not want him."

It follows speculation part of the Dutchman's deal with Sauber was to acquire shares in the obviously financially-struggling Hinwil based team.

The more immediate question is how Sauber will handle the fact that it has three drivers in Melbourne, all with valid race seat contracts.

"Marcus (Ericsson) is preparing normally for the race," the Swede's manager Eje Elgh told Viasat.

"It is a matter between Sauber and van der Garde. Ultimately, we have to wait and see what decisions are made and what the consequences are.

"Until then we cannot do much," Elgh added.

One touted outcome is that, if police ultimately do escort van der Garde into a Sauber cockpit in Melbourne, the wealthy backers of Ericsson and Nasr will then sue the team.

Another possibility is that they will join forces and buy out van der Garde's contract.

At any rate, Sauber's defense in court that van der Garde driving in Melbourne at such late notice is a safety risk has been widely ridiculed.

"It really is a bad argument," Saari confirmed.

"Van der Garde is a professional driver, and adjusting the car may be challenging, but it is not impossible."

Former F1 driver Jan Lammers agrees.

"Giedo will certainly be rusty," he told the Dutch publication Formule1, "but the 'dangerous' proposition argued by Sauber is propaganda.

"Sauber is a team with its back against the wall," said Lammers.

Victoria's supreme court judges will announce the outcome of Sauber's appeal at 4.30 on Thursday, which is after the FIA deadline for the final nomination of each team's race driver pairing for the weekend.

Red Bull pushing to run short nose in Melbourne
(GMM) Red Bull is still pushing to introduce a new bodywork package including a short nose for its 2015 car.

Rumors in the Melbourne paddock suggested the team's bid to draw closer to dominant Mercedes this weekend had not succeeded because the new nose failed the crash test.

But Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko told Sport Bild: "How can we not pass the crash test when we will only do the crash test on Friday?"

Even if the new package can be added to the RB11 in Melbourne, many believe Mercedes will be unbeatable early this season.

"Mercedes can only beat themselves this year," Gerhard Berger is quoted in the Austrian press.

"As long as the cars do not fail as often as they did in 2014, and the drivers don't get in each other's way, they are the absolute favorites for the title."

Another former F1 driver, Jos Verstappen, also thinks Red Bull is not ready to challenge.

"In terms of speed the Renault engine is considerably behind Mercedes," Max Verstappen's father told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

"But maybe they (Red Bull) can surprise me in a positive way," he conceded.

Wolff hits out at wind tunnel ban proposal
(GMM) Mercedes has hit out at Red Bull's suggestion that wind tunnels should be banned from formula one.

As smaller teams struggle for survival, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner proposed a novel solution to help cut costs — ban the wind tunnel.

The Briton's Mercedes counterpart, Toto Wolff, scoffed at the suggestion.

"I thought Red Bull's proposal was to bring back the normally aspirated V8?" he said sarcastically to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"Or maybe they looked again at the test data from Barcelona and came here with the idea of abolishing wind tunnels," Wolff scoffed.

The Austrian insisted wind tunnels are part of the DNA of formula one.

"This is formula one," he said, "not GP2 or a single car series like Indycar.

"It is a world championship for drivers, but also for engineers, so I think if we exclude something that has long been part of the DNA of formula one, that will not help the sport," said Wolff.

Ron Dennis offers a rare admission of mishandling the aftermath of Fernando Alonso's accident

Dennis now admits Alonso crash 'a mystery'
(GMM) Ron Dennis has admitted bungling the Fernando Alonso saga, finally now joining those who agree the Barcelona test crash is a "mystery".

Since the Spaniard hit the wall on February 22, McLaren has claimed it was a "normal" incident and a mere concussion for the team's new star driver.

But supremo Dennis insisted in a recent press conference that Alonso was in fact not even concussed, attracting wide condemnation from fans and the media.

"Putting aside the fact my medical expertise didn't know, actually, concussion was an automatic result of unconsciousness in the accident, (it) set me up as I often do, for massive amounts of criticism for being inaccurate," he said in Australia.

"This is life. I have to take it.

"I understand why the press beat me up. I wanted to be open and honest. I failed. But it is my objective to try to be as honest as possible in future," Dennis added.

He now concedes that Alonso had to sit out Melbourne due to the 21-day waiting period after a concussion.

But, curiously, Dennis is not confirming that the 33-year-old will definitely be back in action in Malaysia — a full five weeks after the crash.

"As far as I know Fernando will be in Malaysia," he said. "I hope he does, but it is his decision, not mine."

Alonso's race engineer Andrea Stella, who has also switched from Ferrari, is in Melbourne to work on the car raced by his replacement, Kevin Magnussen.

The FIA is investigating the Alonso crash saga, and the Spanish driver's manager Flavio Briatore has also called on McLaren to clarify what happened.

"Whether the mystery will materialize in hard fact," Dennis said, "remains to be seen."

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo on Thursday said he has "no concerns" about his safety amid the ongoing saga, but it is Magnussen and Jenson Button who will be actually driving the troubled MP4-30 in Melbourne.

"There's no data to show that there was any issue whatsoever with the car," Button is quoted by Melbourne's Age newspaper.

Ecclestone's TV strategy worries sponsors – report
(GMM) Sponsors have expressed concern about Bernie Ecclestone's television strategy for formula one.

Increasingly, the trend has been away from free-to-air to subscription-based coverage of the full world championship, with the latest example being a new deal with Fox in Australia.

It is maximizing revenue for the sport's commercial rights holder CVC, but contributing to a decline in actual worldwide television ratings, according to reports.

The strategy "won't please mass-market brands like (Ferrari sponsor) Santander", said Mark Gallagher, former sponsorship boss at Red Bull.

In an internal broadcast report, Ecclestone argued in January that the change of tack is to embrace F1's "committed audience" rather than chase mere overall ratings.

"Rather than just eyeballs watching formula one these are the people that support the sport," Ecclestone reportedly said.

But Zak Brown, head of Just Marketing who advise sponsors including Williams' Martini, told the Bloomberg news agency: "I have had a handful of comments from sponsors that they are concerned over the reduction in reach.

"No one questions the massive reach of formula one but people are hung up on the (declining) trend line," he added.

Sauber loses appeal, Perez backs van der Garde
(GMM) Sergio Perez has sided with Giedo van der Garde over his legal dispute with Sauber.

Dutchman van der Garde's court battle with Sauber has been criticized in some quarters for endangering the very survival of the already struggling team.

Melbourne's Age newspaper claims the Hinwil camp, having now lost its appeal against van der Garde's successful case in the Melbourne courts, has threatened to pull out of the Australian grand prix altogether over the saga.

But Mexican Perez, who drives for Force India, sided with the driver.

"It shouldn't be the way people should be treating drivers," he told reporters on Thursday. "They should respect drivers.

"We need this work and this career, so it's not fair when people are not treating you the way you should be treated."

Felipe Massa, meanwhile, made his debut for Sauber in 2002 and admitted it was an unseemly situation on the eve of the new world championship.

"Formula one is not in the best moment compared to what we saw in the past and then you see this situation. It's not nice," said the Brazilian.

FIA still investigating Alonso crash
(GMM) The FIA is still investigating Fernando Alonso's mysterious Barcelona testing crash last month.

The Spanish driver is sitting out Melbourne amid ongoing speculation about his medical condition and what caused him to hit the wall on February 22.

"We are working with McLaren and our medical department is still looking at all the information we can find," FIA race director Charlie Whiting told reporters on Thursday.

"We are still talking to McLaren about anything mechanical. Our medical department is talking to people who treated him in hospital and that is really all I can say on that.

"We can't put a timeframe on it," added Whiting.

The leading theories are that Alonso, 33, was either shocked by McLaren-Honda's fledgling electronic systems, or that a pre-existing medical condition caused him to lose consciousness.

With the mystery still hanging over F1, the other drivers might be forgiven for feeling nervous.

But Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel said he is confident the cars are safe.

"I think nobody wants to send us on the track when they believe that something is not right," he said on Thursday.

"I think we have far too much of a team spirit, in all of the teams I would say, to let that happen.

"So when the team decides that it's safe to run, it's safe to run," added the German.

Whitmarsh joins Newey at America's Cup team
(GMM) Former McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has re-emerged in the world of America's Cup racing.

After 25 years with the Woking team, the 56-year-old Briton was ousted ahead of the 2014 season, and has kept a low profile ever since.

"I've been travelling," he told London's Telegraph.

"Formula one is a sport that can take over your life, it can consume you. And I think it got pretty close to doing that with me.

"I had an amazing 25 years and never have to work again if I don't want to."

But the newspaper revealed that Whitmarsh has been signed up to be chief executive of British sailor Ben Ainslie's 2017 bid for the America's Cup.

Also involved in the project is leading F1 designer Adrian Newey, through Red Bull's new Advanced Technologies subsidiary.

"Frankly, within minutes of talking to Ben I knew I wanted to do it. I rang him the next morning to accept," Whitmarsh said on Thursday.

One of his tasks will be wrestling with Red Bull, as Newey is now committed not only to the energy drink-owned F1 team but also Ben Ainslie Racing.

"If I was Christian (Horner)," said Whitmarsh, "I would be doing all I could to have Adrian focused 100 per cent on F1.

"But I think someone like Adrian, who is immensely creative, needs an outlet and I think that we can offer him that."

Williams and Oris Continue Long Standing Partnership
Williams is pleased to announce that its long-term Official Watch Partner, Oris, has renewed its sponsorship of the team ahead of the 2015 F.I.A. Formula One World Championship.

2015 will mark Oris’ thirteenth season as a partner of Williams, making the luxury Swiss watch manufacturer the team’s longest standing partner. The Oris logo will appear on the nose of the Williams Mercedes FW37 during the 2015 Formula One World Championship season, as well as the helmets, overalls and gloves worn by the team’s racing drivers and uniforms worn by team personnel.

Oris has a heritage of over 110 years of watch manufacturing in HÓ§lstein, Switzerland and is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of mechanical watches. Its watch designs always incorporate a hallmark red rotor as an integral element of the design mechanism. The Oris designers work with the latest technology at the cutting edge of watch making to meet the highest quality standards while remaining true to the company’s characteristic designs and heritage.

Ulrich W. Herzog, Executive Chairman of Oris, commented; “The prestigious world of Formula One continues to be the perfect platform to promote Oris. The competitive racing environment and commitment to quality and success have always resonated with our brand. Renewing the partnership for a thirteenth season reinforces our continued support and commitment to Williams and I’m looking forward to what promises to be an exciting season following a very successful campaign in 2014."

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal and Commercial Director of Williams, added; “I’m delighted that Oris will be remaining as a partner of the team for a thirteenth straight season. They are now our longest standing partner and our association has been so successful because of the synergies between our two brands. We are both family run, embrace new technologies, and precision timing is the cornerstone of our industries."

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