Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Marko expects thieves to melt F1 trophies for silver

    McLaren denies 2015 driver decision 'problem'

  • Grosjean still eyes move to top team
  • Marko expects thieves to melt F1 trophies for silver
  • Bianchi's condition unchanged – father
  • Vettel, Raikkonen among richest Swiss residents
  • Collapsing teams 'gave nothing' to F1 – Trulli
  • Lowe vows to improve Mercedes reliability
  • Bullish Massa targeting 2015 title
  • Kobayashi to test 'Super Formula' in Japan
  • Russian Grand Prix wins 2014 Race Promoters' trophy
  • Haas: A lot of pitfalls in F1

McLaren denies 2015 driver decision 'problem'
(GMM) McLaren has denied its 2015 driver lineup is delayed due to a behind-the-scenes "problem".

The British team is taking heavy criticism for leaving 2009 world champion Jenson Button in the lurch, and endangering the career of the Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen.

"A team that has made a reputation of being indecisive has elevated the art to new heights," said Kevin Eason, writing in The Times. "Their behavior has been shameful."

Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier are taking heat for McLaren's delay in announcing their 2015 driver lineup

Team supremo Ron Dennis is being universally blamed for the painfully protracted delay, amid rumors he is locked in a behind-the-scenes shareholding wrangling with Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahraini co-owners.

Team boss Eric Boullier told Sky television: "There is no problem. It is just (a matter of) taking the time to consider what is good for McLaren."

It is an open secret that Fernando Alonso has already been signed for 2015, and now McLaren is essentially confirming that his teammate will be either Button or Magnussen.

"Our responsibility is to make McLaren win again," said Boullier, "and both drivers are terrific drivers.

"Jenson is obviously a world champion and we would love to carry on with both of them, but we have to decide what is the best position for the team," he added.

Grosjean still eyes move to top team
(GMM) Romain Grosjean admits he might still be looking to move away from Lotus after 2015.

Amid Lotus' horror 2014 season, the Frenchman openly eyed a move for next year, but he has now signed up for at least one more season.

As for the future, he told L'Equipe: "2016 is still far away.

"I did not hide my desire to join a top team, but I wanted one more season with Lotus as we all want to go back to the joy of being on the podium."

Earlier, it appeared Grosjean may have been among the contenders to be Fernando Alonso's new Honda-powered teammate at McLaren for 2015.

Interestingly, he is not one of those who is highly critical of the British team for considering dropping the 2009 world champion Jenson Button.

"If I am not mistaken, Jenson has been in F1 for 15 seasons," he said.

"I'm sorry if he goes, but we need fresh blood."

Finally, in an amusing social media exchange, Grosjean was asked by a fan if he was not tempted to give Lotus' dismal 2014 car a fitting send-off after the final race of the season — with a sledgehammer!

"No, no," he joked. "It had to be used in the Abu Dhabi test, so it could not be done!"

Marko expects thieves to melt F1 trophies for silver
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko has admitted the chances are high that Red Bull's stolen F1 trophies will be lost forever.

The team confirmed at the weekend that a ram-raid on its Milton-Keynes factory early on Saturday morning resulted in the theft of more than 60 trophies.

German publications confirmed that the actual number is 64, representing almost half of the team's total collection of 142 F1 prizes.

"The trophy case was smashed with a sledgehammer," Marko told Bild newspaper. "They were finished in two and a half minutes."

Video footage captured the entire scene, with Marko saying the robbery was carried out by ten masked men who drove a vehicle through Red Bull's glass doors.

"We suspect that the gang will melt our trophies down," Marko told Die Welt, "judging by the way they were thrown carelessly into the car.

"The price of silver is currently very high and they can't be sold because they are too unique," he explained.

Marko said that while the monetary value of the loss is not high, the trophies were priceless to the four-time world champions.

"If you are talking about five to ten pounds of silver per cup, it's a few thousand euros in total. Ridiculous," he said.

Bianchi's condition unchanged – father
(GMM) Jules Bianchi's father says the injured F1 driver remains in a "stable" condition, more than two months after his Suzuka crash.

Frenchman Bianchi, 25, has been unconscious and in a critical condition since striking the recovery vehicle at Suzuka in early October.

He was recently moved from Japan to his native France, where Philippe Bianchi said the Nice community was leaving the family in peace.

"Jules is still stable," Bianchi's father told Var Matin newspaper.

"It takes time and patience, and when there is real progress, we will tell.

"But as Jules is strong, we try to be strong too. We manage as best we can. We are at his bedside, we will not give up and we are trying to give him all the energy we have," Mr. Bianchi added.

Vettel now a rich Swiss

Vettel, Raikkonen among richest Swiss residents
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has been named among the 300 richest residents of Switzerland.

The German has now officially lost his status as reigning world champion, but the Swiss publication Bilanz said he at least maintains a personal fortune of between 83 and 125 million euros.

And the report said he could double that number by 2020, based on his pay-increase since switching to fabled Ferrari for next year and beyond.

Interestingly, the fortune of his friend, fellow Swiss resident and new teammate Kimi Raikkonen is similarly listed at between 83 and 125 million euros.

At the weekend, the Finn was quoted as suggesting his new partnership with Vettel will be better than the one with departed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso.

"We have the opportunity to work in the same direction," Raikkonen is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The intention is to make Ferrari more competitive, but we can also contribute to the team by making a better atmosphere and sharing the same goals," he added.

In a rare candid interview with Italy's Sky, meanwhile, Raikkonen said he is looking forward to fatherhood and not worried that his F1 career could end after 2015.

"I have a contract for 2015 and an option for another season, but it depends on many factors," he said.

"I don't know how things will go, but I hope I have a few more years left. If not, I have never thought my life was only formula one."

Bilanz, meanwhile, said the fortunes enjoyed by Vettel and Raikkonen are dwarfed not only by Michael Schumacher's almost 700 million euros, but another official Swiss resident, Bernie Ecclestone, with his estimated 2 to 2.5 billion.

Collapsing teams 'gave nothing' to F1 – Trulli
(GMM) F1 will not miss the collapsing backmarker teams Caterham and Marussia.

That is the claim of former grand prix driver Jarno Trulli, whose own career started in the mid 90s right at the back of the grid.

However, now 40 and an owner-driver in the Formula E series, Italian Trulli said that the Minardi days were different.

"It's true that small teams have always been there," he is quoted by "But they were good teams.

"Take Minardi — they had young drivers but not just because they pay but because they had talent.

"Most of these drivers then stepped up in F1, while I doubt that any Caterham or Marussia driver will make the same leap," said Trulli, who went on to drive for Renault and Toyota.

"The big mistake F1 made," he added, "is to let the manufacturers go elsewhere. This marked the end of the golden age, which I had the honor to be able to live.

"Today the situation is totally different, with a few real teams and many other small teams trying to stay alive," added Trulli.

FIA president Jean Todt has confirmed that even if Marussia and Caterham do collapse, an 18-car grid is sufficient for 2015.

"In 2016 we will have a new team," the Frenchman is quoted by Italy's Autosprint, "so at worst we will have 18 cars in 2015 but 20 the following season."

Trulli agrees that F1 can survive for now without the struggling backmarkers.

"Unfortunately," he said, "Bernie Ecclestone was right when he said that some teams are just disorganized. They don't give anything to formula one."

Paddy Lowe

Lowe vows to improve Mercedes reliability
(GMM) Paddy Lowe has vowed to improve Mercedes' reliability record.

While the German team utterly dominated in 2014, two teams were actually better in the area of technical reliability, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport revealed.

It was McLaren and Ferrari with the most reliable cars this year, followed by Mercedes and then former world champions Red Bull in fourth place.

"12 months ago I decided to improve our quality control," said technical boss Lowe, "but it is not an overnight process.

"We have not had the time to change all the processes that need to be changed because the main challenge was to make the car faster.

"Once you've done that, then you can take better care of reliability," he added.

"Ferrari made this step in the Schumacher era," Lowe said, "and they are still at a very high level."

Felipe Massa hopes superior Mercedes engine can take him to title. He's hallucinating if he thinks he can beat the factory Mercedes team

Bullish Massa targeting 2015 title
(GMM) Felipe Massa has targeted the 2015 drivers' title.

Initially disappointed to have been ousted by Ferrari, the Brazilian appeared rejuvenated in 2014 after switching to Williams.

The formerly beleaguered Grove team was the surprise of the season, ending it as undoubtedly Mercedes' closest competitor.

The younger Valtteri Bottas was the team's main star of 2014, but 33-year-old Massa insists he is still right on the pace.

"Many things happened in the first phase of the season that made me lose many strong results," he is quoted by Globo Esporte.

"Things did not start the way I would like, but we ended with a super-competitive car," Massa added.

"I am happy with the second part of the championship and super-excited for next year.

"I think we can have a better year, a more competitive car, and come back to fight for victories and the championship," he claimed.

"I already fought for victory in the last race and so I hope we can arrive at Interlagos and Abu Dhabi next year with a chance of the championship," Massa repeated.

Some might regard Massa's optimism as perhaps too ambitious, but the driver insists that another step for Williams is a real possibility for 2015.

"Our expectations are high," said Massa.

"We have regulations that are not changing much so I think most of the teams that had a competitive car will not have a big change. But it is always a new car, a new year," he added.

Kobayashi to test 'Super Formula' in Japan
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi looks set to keep his motor racing career alive outside of formula one.

After a year off the grid in 2013, the popular 28-year-old returned this year with Caterham only to witness the team's collapse.

Caterham's administrators have not yet given up, but reports have emerged that Kobayashi is heading to his native Japan for a test in a 'Super Formula' car.

The test in Japan's premier open-wheeler category will take place this week, but Kobayashi said: "I cannot confirm anything for 2015 yet, but I am happy to be given this opportunity."

Interestingly, the driver who replaced Kobayashi at Spa earlier this year, Andre Lotterer, finished this year's Super Formula championship in third place.

The series champion is former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, while Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi were also on the 2014 grid.

The spectacular Sochi Autodrom

Russian Grand Prix wins 2014 Race Promoters' trophy
Sochi Autodrom, home of the first ever Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix, was announced as the winner of the 2014 Race Promoters' Trophy by Formula One Management at the annual FIA Gala ceremony on December 5th 2014 in Doha, Qatar.

The award will be presented on December 19th, during an official visit of FIA and FOM officials to Sochi Autodrom.

The FIA’s annual Gala Prize-Giving ceremony saw champions from every major branch of international motor sport gather together to receive their awards on one star-studded evening, including the 2014 Formula One World Champions Lewis Hamilton (Champion Driver) and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (Champion Constructor).

The FIA Annual General Assembly, held between December 1st – 5th, adopted the amendments to the Formula 1 sporting and technical regulations for the 2015 season, alongside new criteria for issuing of super licenses. It also announced the provisional 2015 F1 calendar with the Russian Grand Prix scheduled to take place in Sochi on October 11th, 2015.

In its debut operational season, Sochi Autodrom, which has also recently been named ‘Motorsport Facility of the Year’, hosted a number of important international, national and regional events. Besides hosting the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix, Sochi Autodrom will soon launch its Driving Academy that will contribute to the motorsport development in Krasnodar region and Russia. The program will include driver education in general with focus on defensive driving, and an aim to install greater safety awareness on Russian roads.

Haas: A lot of pitfalls in F1
Gene Haas is confident he's made the right decision delaying his team's Formula 1 debut until 2016.

Although Haas was initially expected to race in next year's Championship, the American deferred his team's entry by a year.

That has not only given him extra time to sign his two drivers, a hot topic in America, but also to design and build what he hopes will be a competitive car.

"That is so overwhelming. If you get it wrong, it's a disaster," he said. "You can see by most of the start-up teams that their biggest problem is not finishing races.

"In retrospect, from what I've seen with the start-up teams from the 2008-2009 time period, taking that extra year is going to give us the opportunity to build a very, very competitive car, have the teams in place, have the equipment in place, so that when we come off the haulers in February 2016, we will be a competitive team."

However, the NASCAR owner admits putting together a competitive Formula 1 team is not an easy task.

"There are a lot of pitfalls in Formula 1. We've seen a lot of teams have a lot of problems. There are money issue," he told NBC. "There's a lot of rancor in the troops out there as far as what we're hearing with Formula 1.

"I look at it as a challenge. I've been to some Formula 1 races. I've met the people. I like them. They're good people."

Some of those people he met this year worked for Ferrari – however a few of those – including team boss Marco Mattiacci – have now left.

Asked about the situation, Haas, who will use Ferrari power in 2016, said: "I think that the higher ups know what they're doing. I hope we didn't have any influence over them losing their jobs."

He added: "There's a lot of pressure on Ferrari. Ferrari is obviously a marquee car builder, and Formula 1 is their marquee racing series. And they want to win. There's just a lot of pressure there. I have to respect that."

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