Despite 4 World Titles the Italians did not pay attention to Vettel until he signed with Ferrari
Vettel 'did not exist' in Italy – Briatore
- Mercedes rivalry more intense in 2015 – Lauda
- Williams to challenge Mercedes in 2015 – Lauda
- 'Too early' for Lotus podiums – Grosjean
- New McLaren 'better than it seems'
- Briatore wants McLaren, FIA to explain Alonso crash
- Schumacher ski story is 'tragedy' – Ecclestone
- Button denies Olympic bid reports
- Rosberg has 'huge motivation' after title loss
Vettel 'did not exist' in Italy – Briatore
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has giggled at the new 'Sebastian Vettel fever' at Maranello.
The former Renault boss was commenting on Ferrari's public delight at having secured the quadruple world champion to replace Fernando Alonso.
Briatore still oversees the management of Alonso, who has switched to McLaren-Honda.
"In Italy it's amazing," he told Italy's Sky Sport 24, "because they never talked about Vettel but now that he is in Ferrari he is the driver of the past and the future.
"Before, it was as though Vettel did not exist in formula one," said Briatore.
"I think Vettel is a good driver, surely one of the best 5 or 6. With a very good car he was unbeatable," he added, "but let's not compare him to Schumacher or Senna."
Briatore, however, welcomed the recent upheaval at Maranello, following the chaos of 2014.
"If I had been there I would have done much the same," he said. "There were too many people, too much overlap, a lot of confusion."
But he said the new management, headed by Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene, should not get all the credit if 2015 turns out to be a much better season.
"They did not make this new car yesterday, it was started a year and half ago," said the Italian. "If it's a good car then it was made in the time of Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo.
"My concern is that we will see Mercedes and the Mercedes engine dominate in Australia.
"This (turbo V6) engine has created a disparity without adding anything positive to the races. So I hope we see a competitive Ferrari," Briatore added.
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Mercedes rivalry more intense in 2015 – Lauda
(GMM) Mercedes will continue to let its drivers fight hard for the title, boss Toto Wolff insists.
Earlier, former champion Jacques Villeneuve said he hopes the German team dominates again in 2015, because if rival teams are too close, Mercedes might impose team orders.
But Wolff said letting Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg enjoy total equality and freedom to fight wheel-to-wheel is a Mercedes "philosophy", not a matter of convenience.
"We are not going to change our approach in terms of philosophy on how to let the drivers race. Even if it is not always easy," he is quoted by AFP news agency.
"For us, for our brand, for formula one, it was important to let them fight, one against the other."
Former F1 driver David Coulthard praised Mercedes for its approach, which is in contrast to how some former top teams managed their driver rivalries.
"I think the way they managed it was correct for the sport and correct for the fans of the sport," the Scot said in an interview published by Laureus.
Hamilton insists, therefore, that although he is the reigning champion, German Rosberg will fight him hard in 2015.
"I'm sure Nico is trying to train harder, studying more and trying everything under the sun to make sure he finishes ahead of me," he told British reporters.
Last year, the intensity of the fight boiled over and affected the former friends' relationship, but Hamilton said that relationship is currently "quite good".
"But it's before the season starts," the Briton admitted.
"In the heat of the moment you have to assume there's going to be small bits of tension but that's because we're fierce competitors within the same team."
Team chairman Niki Lauda expects the Hamilton vs Rosberg fight to be even more intense in 2015.
"The duels will be even harder this year because Nico will be doing everything to catch up to Lewis," he told the German broadcaster RTL.
"Nico will increase the pressure, making Lewis increase the pressure in return," the F1 legend added.
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Williams to challenge Mercedes in 2015 – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda is not expecting Mercedes to utterly dominate in 2015.
While rival teams say the German camp has kept its 2014-like advantage over the winter, Mercedes team chairman Lauda told the German broadcaster RTL that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be joined in their battle for this year's title.
"After the tests," the F1 legend said, "I see the greatest challengers as the Williams team.
"Valtteri Bottas is the biggest talent among the young drivers, but one should never underestimate Felipe Massa, who can be in front on a good day.
"Behind Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull are playing in about the same league," Lauda added.
"With Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari has a very good team and they will be fighting against each other.
"Red Bull's top driver is clearly Daniel Ricciardo," Lauda said, "as I do not expect too much from Daniil Kvyat."
'Too early' for Lotus podiums – Grosjean
(GMM) Romain Grosjean has played down the prospect of early podiums this year for Lotus.
After proving F1's fourth force in 2012 and 2013, the Enstone team's performance plummeted last year but it is looking to bounce back with a top Mercedes engine in 2015.
Indeed, Grosjean and teammate Pastor Maldonado have hailed the much-better E23 car after winter testing, but Frenchman Grosjean insists: "It's too early to talk about podiums.
"I think you can say now that I will be reaching Q3 at times," he told RMC Sport.
"Being in the top ten, scoring points, that is the primary objective. Then it will be the top five and then we can dream about the podium, but you have to climb the steps one after the other," Grosjean added.
Lotus' decline last year was arguably the result of significant personnel cuts after 2013, but Grosjean said the team has now corrected that with recruitment to "important positions" in the last six months.
"Between 2013 and 2014," he said, "there were a lot of departures, but people that have since arrived have become accustomed to their roles and are now offering us the best solutions."
Grosjean says he has also improved personally in the last six months, having often let his frustration boil over in 2014.
"Last year, I could have managed my frustration a little differently," he admitted. "I could have chosen better words.
"I am working on that, but I am impulsive and that is also why my strength is the qualifying lap," Grosjean smiled.
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New McLaren 'better than it seems'
(GMM) It has been a tumultuous winter for the fledgling McLaren-Honda collaboration.
The MP4-30 has been unreliable and uncompetitive, and now star driver Fernando Alonso is on the sidelines after his mysterious testing crash.
But team boss Eric Boullier insists: "The package is better than it seems."
As things stand, not everyone believes that.
Former long-time McLaren driver David Coulthard says that while early niggles were to be expected, he thinks McLaren and Honda have had enough time to put together a good car for 2015.
"I just can't get my head around the situation and all the difficulties they've had," he told the Guardian.
"They had an extra year to develop their engine," said Coulthard, explaining that while Ferrari and Renault similarly struggled in 2014, Honda was also using that period to "learn and develop" behind the scenes.
"So it's really weird," he said. "There's stuff going on there which is very un-McLaren like. But then they've had a pretty bad run for years now."
Coulthard said part of the problem could be Ron Dennis, who is now trying to run the F1 team whilst also growing the McLaren Group and launching road cars.
"No one can give 100 per cent to two things. It's physically impossible," he insisted.
Coulthard also said he is concerned about McLaren's finances, wondering: "Where are the sponsors on the car? You can't run these things on fresh air."
Alonso's manager Flavio Briatore, however, insists the Spanish driver is not worried about McLaren-Honda's current problems.
"Fernando is very confident," he told Italy's Sky Sport 24. "He says that when the car was working, it was good.
"The Japanese will put all the human and financial resources to ensure that the engine is competitive," said Briatore, "and the McLaren chassis will surely also be competitive."
Teammate Jenson Button, who has been at McLaren since 2010, is also impressed with the MP4-30, telling Germany's Auto Motor und Sport that "the path we have taken will lead McLaren back to winning ways".
The British driver has also hailed the "excellent drivability" of the works Honda engine, even though "whenever we wanted to use full power, there were problems with leaks and seals".
But a McLaren team member said: "The horse power that Honda promised is there."
Briatore wants McLaren, FIA to explain Alonso crash
(GMM) Fernando Alonso's mentor Flavio Briatore has revealed the Spanish driver's mysterious testing crash was "very strange".
McLaren-Honda's star driver has been notably quiet since his hospitalization and ongoing recovery, while rampant speculation about the Barcelona crash saga rages.
"It does not add up," former F1 driver David Coulthard told the Guardian.
"You can take at face value the information we're being given. But are we being given diluted information?
"It's possible but it's a risky strategy because these things eventually come out," said the former long-time McLaren driver.
Briatore, who continues to oversee Alonso's management, told Italy's Sky Sport 24 on Monday that he has spoken with the 33-year-old since the crash.
And he says he has also seen a video of the incident.
"Bernie Ecclestone sent it to me," said the Italian, "and the blow is not strong, it's not dramatic. The accident itself was a very strange thing.
"We have not had any information from McLaren, Ron Dennis has not clarified it and hopefully he will," Briatore added, admitting that the British team's communication has been "not brilliant" throughout.
But he hit back at widespread reports about the extent of Alonso's memory loss, insisting the amnesia only lasted "a day or two or three".
Briatore also played down rumors of an electric shock, adding that a "steering problem" is more likely, although he did admit that the precise cause of the accident is in fact still unknown.
"There is an ongoing investigation of the FIA so we will see what happens, but if there was something electric then we believe and hope that it should be known so that it does not happen again," he said.
"We know that when KERS was first put on the cars in formula one there was a mechanic who was shocked. But in the cars there is a switch, and Fernando's switch was closed. So let's see."
Briatore said the media coverage of the saga has been often "sensationalist", although medical tests on Alonso have been exhaustive.
"He had every possible test and everything was negative," said the former Renault chief. "They wanted to check if Fernando himself had a problem; a heart problem, a small stroke, a blood clot, because this can happen even to a great sportsman.
"If there had been something the doctors would have seen it after days of discussion with the best European specialists," he said.
"The doctors logically advised him not to participate in the first grand prix in Melbourne as a matter of precaution.
"Fernando is currently in Dubai and he's doing well," Briatore added.
Schumacher ski story is 'tragedy' – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has described the fate of F1 legend Michael Schumacher as a "tragedy".
15 months ago, the seven time world champion fell whilst skiing with his son Mick in the French alps, suffering serious brain injuries.
"I know nothing about his current condition," F1 chief executive Ecclestone, who has known the now 46-year-old German for over two decades, said.
"This may sound strange," the 84-year-old Briton told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper, "but it would have been more logical if he had had his accident in racing.
"That is the tragedy of this story," Ecclestone added. "He had a lot of crashes and took a lot of risks, but for it to happen like this? It was not even a skiing race."
Schumacher, with 91 grand prix wins to his name, is the most statistically successfully driver in the history of formula one.
Button denies Olympic bid reports
(GMM) Jenson Button has hit back at reports he contemplated quitting F1 for the Olympics.
The Mirror newspaper had quoted the McLaren driver as saying amid McLaren's dithering last year, the 35-year-old thought instead about launching a bid to contest the 2016 Olympic triathlon in Brazil.
"I did think about Rio and then decided 'no'," Button was quoted as saying.
But, including a link to the Mirror article, Button told his more than 2 million Twitter followers: "Just so you know, not even the tiniest bit of truth in this headline!"
|Rosberg wants to beat teammate Hamilton in 2015, but does he have the talent?|
Rosberg has 'huge motivation' after title loss
Nico Rosberg says he is more determined than ever to succeed after being beaten to last year's world title by Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg enjoyed a lengthy spell at the top of the standings last season, but slipped behind Hamilton as the Briton won six of the final seven races.
Having overcome an initial sense of disappointment, Rosberg described his title loss as "a huge motivation" for the upcoming campaign.
"I have focused on pushing myself even harder for the rematch with Lewis," said Rosberg.
"In the end, it comes down to who can put the best season together overall and I have to make sure it's the other way around this time.
"Having said that, my team-mate is just one of many strong competitors who I have to beat if I want to be World Champion, so I'm just focused on being the absolute best I can be.
"I now know the feeling of winning races and I intend to do a lot more of that – but I also know the feeling of not winning in the end and I don't intend to repeat that experience.
"It's a huge motivation for me and gives me even more determination for 2015."