Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Button to test for McLaren today
    Button to test for McLaren today

    FIA to investigate mysterious Alonso crash

  • Renault not ruling out F1 strategy changes
  • 'Favorite opponent' Rosberg ready to beat Hamilton
  • Button predicts unpredictable Melbourne grid
  • McLaren joins Ferrari in helping Manor survive
  • Force India reveal photo of 2015 car
  • Testing today in Barcelona
  • US investor considering a larger stake in Williams F1 team

FIA to investigate mysterious Alonso crash

(GMM) F1's governing body has vowed to look into the circumstances surrounding the mysterious crash that hospitalized Fernando Alonso for four days.

McLaren initially took 28 hours to issue a statement about last Sunday's incident, triggering speculation there is more to the story than a "normal" gust of wind.

Sebastian Vettel, who was following the McLaren-Honda, said his rival seemed to simply steer into the concrete wall, and a trackside photographer has told of how the impact was in fact "not violent".

The Woking based team denied wild speculation Alonso was electrocuted by KERS or overcome by battery fumes and in fact was already unconscious when he hit the wall.

But Italy's Autosprint reports that, following repeated problems with Honda's MGU-K (KERS) system, McLaren has now intervened and a hybrid version will be run at this week's final Barcelona test.

Another conspiracy is that the 33-year-old suffered some sort of seizure, but to date no video or telemetry data of the incident has been released.

Former F1 doctor Gary Hartstein, however, suggested on Twitter that Alonso's long hospitalization suggests there is more to the story than a simple concussion.

"Not a scintilla of doubt that at best we've been given the tiniest sliver of truth, at worst treated like we were fools," he said.

So as Alonso left hospital on Wednesday after three nights, two of which were spent in intensive care, reports emerged that the FIA will now investigate the saga.

"We will look at it very accurately in order to understand it properly and to see what the community can learn from it," a spokesman for the Paris federation is quoted by the Associated Press.

Germany's Sport Bild said the FIA has asked McLaren to provide its telemetry data, but another report at Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport clarified: "It is not an official investigation, but a request for information."

Former McLaren driver Gerhard Berger, meanwhile, thinks that amid the mysterious air of intrigue, the Woking team should release the data publicly.

"To remove all doubt," he is quoted by Sport Bild, "McLaren should put the telemetric data in the open."

Did Renault produce another lemon engine in 2015?

Renault not ruling out F1 strategy changes

(GMM) Renault has not ruled out making changes to its approach to formula one.

Amid rumors of continuing discord with its partner Red Bull, and following the loss of engine partners Lotus and Caterham, it has been rumored the French manufacturer might be considering running a full Renault-branded works team again.

Official Cyril Abiteboul, however, played down suggestions Renault and Red Bull continue to fall out and head in separate directions.

"Our partnership with Red Bull has been strengthened," he said, "and is going in the right direction, so overall the situation seems encouraging."

But at the same time, amid reports Renault might choose to buy into a team like Toro Rosso and go it alone in F1 once again, Abiteboul did not rule out that prospect.

"We are here for marketing," he is quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial.

"So if from the perspective of marketing we need to do some things differently, we are open to it.

"There is no ego, the only priority is to launch the marketing messages that we want to achieve in the sport in the most efficient way in terms of cost.

"If you look at 2014," Abiteboul added, "it was very expensive for us. We had four customers, including very good teams like Lotus and two teams both under the ownership and control of Red Bull."

Since then, Red Bull has adopted full works Renault status, Caterham has collapsed and dissatisfied customer Lotus switched to Mercedes power.

"This means that we actually have only one customer now," said Abiteboul, "but the situation is utterly dependent on Red Bull.

"Is it sustainable for Renault? That is the question.

"I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no (to changes)," he added.

Nico Rosberg will again get mopped up by Lewis Hamilton

'Favorite opponent' Rosberg ready to beat Hamilton

(GMM) Nico Rosberg says he is determined to beat reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton to the 2015 title.

Last year, the utterly dominant Mercedes duo fought a close and intense battle for F1's biggest prize.

"Nico Rosberg has been strengthened by the defeat," the German driver, referring to himself in the third person, told Germany's Sport Bild.

"He is more cunning, because he has learned a lot in the past year," Rosberg added, again referring to himself.

"Now, there are fewer situations that are unknown to me," he explained. "I'm ready for anything that can happen on the track. I'm better prepared."

Rosberg said one of his weaknesses in 2014 was his wheel-to-wheel dueling against the hard-charging Hamilton.

"Hamilton did a better job (in that area)," he admitted, "so that's what I need to improve for 2015.

"It will be a good year in any case," said the confident Rosberg, who later this year will become a father for the first time.

"In the whole of last season I did not make many mistakes. Zero mistakes is always best, but no driver can achieve that — not even Lewis."

On the subject of Hamilton, Rosberg said he expects his teammate to once again be fully motivated in 2015.

"We are both so involved in this huge competition," said the 29-year-old. "I am the favorite opponent that he wants to beat, which is motivation enough.

"It's been that way since we were 13," Rosberg concluded.

Jenson Button

Button predicts unpredictable Melbourne grid

(GMM) Jenson Button is predicting an unpredictable grid for next weekend's Melbourne season opener.

As the final four-day test of the winter pre-season begins on Thursday in Barcelona, the McLaren-Honda driver said the pecking order has changed since last year.

"A year ago," the Briton is quoted by Speed Week, "it was clear that Mercedes and Williams were ahead of the competition.

"But this time it's really hard for me to see the pecking order. We could have a pretty mixed up field in Australia," Button, 35, added.

Indeed, a mix of teams have often seemed competitive at recent tests, including the obviously improved Ferrari, the fastest-in-Barcelona Lotus, and the usual suspects Mercedes, Williams and Red Bull.

"It is really difficult to see who's fast and who still has work to do," Button agreed.

"I think Mercedes is at the front. But when you look at the long runs, Ferrari looks strong. Williams, it's hard to tell, and Red Bull and Sauber are looking solid."

As for his own McLaren-Honda camp, it has been a difficult and tumultuous period as the great names reunite for the complex challenge of the new V6 era.

"I've been through a few difficult winters," Button said. "Here (at McLaren) in 2010, the exhaust kept falling apart.

"In most cases, you get your problems under control. I am convinced that we will see significant progress from some teams this year, and that makes it all pretty exciting."

McLaren joins Ferrari in helping Manor survive

(GMM) McLaren has joined fellow creditor Ferrari in helping the former Marussia team to survive.

Ferrari, owed millions by the struggling backmarker, has agreed to keep supplying its 2014-spec turbo V6 engine to the team reborn as 'Manor' for 2015.

McLaren, a separate technology partner, is also owed millions by Manor.

But the struggling team has come out of administration in the past days according to a Company Voluntary Agreement, under which creditors agree to be repaid over a longer period of time.

One of those creditors is McLaren, who like Ferrari will continue to support Manor.

"We have agreed to restructure our contract with the Manor team so that it may continue to benefit from affordable support, in keeping with contractual obligations," a McLaren spokesman told GMM.

The spokesman, however, played down speculation McLaren's grander plan may be to forge close ties in the Manor outfit, along the lines of Ferrari's new 'B-team'-like alliance with Haas.

"We are assisting the team (Manor)'s efforts to try to continue competing in formula one," the McLaren official said, "but we have no plans to acquire any equity in the team or to increase our involvement with it in any way."

Force India 2015 car

VJM08Force India releases first photo of 2015 car

Force India has released a rendered image of its new Formula 1 challenger, the VJM08, which it hopes to run from the second day of the final pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The Silverstone-based team skipped the opening test at Jerez, and only completed mileage with its 2014 car at the first of the back-to-back Barcelona tests last week.

But Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer says the new car is due to arrive at the track on Friday morning, with a view to the first laps being completed later in the day.

"The VJM08 will arrive in Barcelona on Friday morning and the final set up will take place in the garage at the track," said Szafnauer.

"We are aiming to get out on Friday and the new car will run as much as possible over the weekend."

Despite the delays, Szafnauer praised the team for its efforts with the design and build of the car.

"It has progressed well over the last few days and the car has now been fired up at the factory. That's always the key moment when the car truly comes to life," he said.

"We have seen a tremendous effort from every department over the last few months to get us to this stage and we're looking forward to seeing the car take to the track later this week."

Testing today in Barcelona
Barcelona pre-season testing (2): Day 1 line-up:

Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull
Daniil Kvyat

Felipe Massa

Kimi Raikkonen

Jenson Button

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz Jr.

Romain Grosjean

Marcus Ericsson

US investor considering a larger stake in Williams F1 team
Brad Hollinger, who has become a 10% shareholder in the Williams F1 team after acquiring shares from Toto Wolff, has said that he may consider buying up more shares in the team that finished third in last year’s F1 championship.

The American, who runs the Vibra Healthcare business in the US, a network of private hospitals, bought 5% off Wolff soon after the Austrian became head of Mercedes Benz motorsport. He exercised his option to buy a further 5% recently, taking Wolff down to just below 5%, which he intends to retain.

However speaking to selected media in Oxford this week, this website asked Hollinger whether he would be interested in buying more shares in the company,

“Yes. I would not preclude adding to my investment," he said.

“This (investment) gives me the chance to be part of a successful team and the return on investment will be substantial over time. We are determined to make it a profit center.

“I have had a passion for F1 since the 1960s. I went to see the cars at Watkins Glen and was hooked. I’m in business to make money and there is an opportunity to make money in F1. We are on the cusp of a huge explosion of growth in this sport, the social media side for example is untapped, it’s a huge opportunity. I like what’s happening in this organization, the culture is fantastic and the opportunity with Williams Advanced Engineering (spinning off F1 technologies into other businesses) are huge.

“F1 has been successful despite not taking off in the USA, " Hollinger added.

The American has no plans to put his Vibra Healthcare logo on the Williams car, but does plan to effect business connections between multinational companies with whom he deals in the medical sector and Williams and also to look for opportunities and applications for Williams Advanced Engineering technologies in the medical field. McLaren does something similar repurposing the standard F1 Electronic Control Unit, which it designs and manufactures for the FIA for use in children’s heart hospitals. James Allen on F1

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