Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday (Update)

UPDATE Update shown in red below.

Ferrari engineer says Vettel's Ferrari will be crap in 2015

12/02/14

  • McLaren to consider Alonso's teammate on Thursday
  • Wolff doubts F1 will lose more teams
  • Grosjean admits Ferrari 'discussions'
  • Engine rivals set for more Mercedes dominance
  • Toro Rosso set to keep Spanish sponsor
  • Caterham allowed to use 2014 car next season
  • Webber released from hospital
  • Chilton exploring opportunities outside F1 where drivers get paid to drive
  • Williams and Avanade Announce New Partnership Agreement New

McLaren to consider Alonso's teammate on Thursday
(GMM) McLaren's protracted driver deliberations will finally come to a head later this week.

With Fernando Alonso almost certainly joining in 2015, the British team said recently that the full driver lineup will only be decided "no earlier than December 1st".

December 1 came and went on Monday without an announcement being made, but a spokesman told us: "Our press release did not stipulate a December 1st announcement".

With 2014 drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen at the top of the list, we reported on Monday that a decision on either Thursday or Friday is now likely.

"Since we issued that press release," the spokesman continued, "Ron (Dennis) has said 'Any decision has to be supported by the shareholders and the board'."

And the spokesman clarified: "There is a McLaren Group board meeting later this week."

Widespread reports indicate it is actually taking place on Thursday.

Team supremo Dennis added: "It's pretty understandable we're looking chiefly at two people, but there's a broader choice than Kevin and Jenson.

"Nevertheless, whatever the decision, it won't be taken until then."

Germany's Sport Bild claims McLaren is split into two camps, with Dennis favoring Magnussen but shareholders Mansour Ojjeh, the Bahrainis and perhaps even Alonso pushing hard for 2009 world champion Button to be retained.

Robert Kubica wishes his friend Fernando Alonso well on his switch to McLaren

Meanwhile, Alonso's old friend Robert Kubica has wished the Spaniard well as he prepares to embark on his new Honda-powered adventure.

"I think Fernando's choice is interesting," said the former F1 driver and Pole, speaking to Speed Week whilst competing at the Monza rally.

"I think his experience with the team and with Ron Dennis in 2007 made him a better driver, and he has matured a lot in the seven years afterwards," he added.

Referring also to Alonso's Ferrari successor Sebastian Vettel, Kubica concluded: "What I do know is that it will be very difficult for either of them to reduce the gap to Mercedes.

"At the same time, that is also the beauty of formula one — even insiders are never quite sure what is going to happen."

Wolff doubts F1 will lose more teams
(GMM) Toto Wolff thinks there is little danger the F1 grid will fall below 18 cars for the 2015 season.

Backmarkers Caterham and Marussia stumbled financially at the tail end of last season, although a controversial crowdfunding scheme put Caterham back on track for the Abu Dhabi finale.

Administrator and acting team boss Finbarr O'Connell says he is now talking to potential buyers and clearing hurdles so that Caterham can race in 2015.

Delays have pushed development of the 2015 car way behind schedule, but at key F1 meetings in Geneva last week, O'Connell proposed that Caterham be allowed to race the 2014-specification car and Renault engine next year.

"It was proposed as something to help Caterham and Marussia but will be available to any team if they want to apply to the FIA," he confirmed.

The next step is to urgently find a buyer.

"I am honestly talking to somebody who would like to take this over within the next month," O'Connell revealed.

Wolff, the team boss at Mercedes and also still a minor owner of the Williams team, said he thinks Marussia and Caterham failed because their financial models were "not sustainable".

He thinks the next three most endangered teams, however – Sauber, Force India and Lotus – will all survive.

"I do not believe that we will lose any more teams," Wolff told the German trade magazine Sponsors. "At least that is the feedback that I get from the teams.

"Now we are simply talking about how the cake can be divided up differently."

It has been reported that Mercedes is prepared to make some concessions in order to help the struggling teams.

But Wolff said Mercedes' attitude is not unanimous.

He revealed: "Ferrari and Red Bull take the position that 'This is not our problem but that of the (affected) teams'."

Wolff does not, however, overly criticize that attitude, saying it is people like Christian Horner's job to argue for the exclusive wellbeing of their employers.

"We cannot have a socialist system," he said. "In the end, teams like Marussia and Caterham are ultimately responsible for their failure.

"If a team is in a situation where it is crushed by a mountain of debt, you have to wonder if they were properly managed," said Wolff. "If you spend more than you have, you must have a plan to repay it."

So while Caterham clings to survival in the weeks before Christmas, it appears the forthcoming auction of Marussia's team equipment marks the end of the line.

British team driver Max Chilton is quoted by Speed Week: "We knew all season how tight things were. Every race felt like our last.

"I know that it will be very difficult for me to get a cockpit somewhere else," he acknowledged.

Was Romain Grosjean Ferrari's Plan B if things fell through with Sebastian Vettel?

Grosjean admits Ferrari 'discussions'
(GMM) Romain Grosjean says he was in talks with teams including Ferrari until the 2015 driver market was "shaken up" by Sebastian Vettel.

The Frenchman, who could have left Lotus due to a team performance-related clause in his contract, has now re-committed to Enstone for another year.

He admitted to France's RMC: "There were some discussions (about my future).

"Eventually I think the market was quite shaken when Sebastian Vettel said he is leaving Red Bull. It surprised everyone.

"We are still waiting to see what McLaren will do, but there are other big names in formula one like Ferrari and Mercedes.

"There were discussions," Grosjean added.

Now, the 28-year-old is looking ahead to the 2015 season, when Lotus will enjoy title-winning Mercedes power after struggling this year with Renault.

But he cautions: "We will not know until after the first winter test, although even early this year, we really thought we had a good car.

"You never really know how it is going to be. There are ups and downs but this is still a good team," said Grosjean.

Engine rivals set for more Mercedes dominance
(GMM) 2014 engine rivals Renault and Ferrari appear unlikely to close the gap to dominant Mercedes before the start of next season.

The struggling marques pushed hard for the current development 'freeze' regulations to be relaxed ahead of 2015.

But Andy Cowell, the engine boss at Mercedes, insists there is no good reason for the German carmaker's rivals to be complaining about the current rules.

"The situation is clear," he is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.

"You can develop the engine all year long and then race your great evolution at the beginning of next season.

"There is a very long list of development opportunities for our opponents to take a big step forward," he added.

But according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Renault and Ferrari are now running out of time to prepare meaningful upgrades to their 'power units' before 2015.

The report said neither engine maker even looks set to use all the available 'tokens' of allowed performance upgrades by the end-of-February freeze deadline.

"They started to develop their 2015 engines too late," said Auto Motor und Sport.

Niki Lauda tells the Ferrari and Renault teams to stop complaining

A baffled Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda said: "Why didn't they start already in Melbourne, when they knew how far behind they were?"

The report said Renault, for instance – although now enjoying the input of engine guru Mario Illien – has run out of time to mimic Mercedes' components layout.

Auto Motor und Sport said Ferrari, on the other hand, will enter the 2015 season with a more Mercedes-like layout.

But the boss of Renault's works team Red Bull, Christian Horner, sounds defeated already.

"We expect a slight increase in performance," he is quoted by El Confidencial. "We know we cannot reach Mercedes' level, but we want to be closer."

Ferrari is also expecting 2015 to be another struggle.

Reports suggest Mercedes' engine chief Cowell turned down an offer to switch to Maranello, while Ferrari's designer Nikolas Tombazis is understood to be close to the exit.

New Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel described his first taste of a red cockpit as "magical" on Saturday, but others are more realistic.

The honeymoon period is in full bloom with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari

"In the midst of all this euphoria," a Ferrari engineer told the insider Leo Turrini, "we should not forget to apologize in advance to Seb and Kimi for the car they will drive in 2015."

It has emerged that Kimi Raikkonen will have a new race engineer for 2015, but fellow Finnish champion Mika Hakkinen remains worried about his countryman.

"I watched Kimi in Abu Dhabi," Hakkinen said in his latest interview for sponsor Hermes, "and I could see that he had no pleasure of driving.

"One can only hope that Ferrari is preparing a much better car for Kimi. If Ferrari stays at this level, it will affect the motivation of both drivers," he added.

Toro Rosso set to keep Spanish sponsor
(GMM) Just as Carlos Sainz settles in at Toro Rosso, it emerges that a major sponsor is staying with the Red Bull-owned team after all.

When Sainz started out in the British and European F3 categories in 2012, we reported that he was doing so with the direct backing of Cepsa.

The Spanish oil company has also been Toro Rosso's major backer.

But while Red Bull remained undecided recently over promoting Sainz into F1 for 2015, it emerged that Cepsa was contemplating leaving Toro Rosso.

Spain's El Confidencial reported last month that Toro Rosso contemplating about whether to keep Jean-Eric Vergne on board next year "could be interpreted as pressure on Cepsa not to withdraw".

Ultimately, Sainz was signed up, and the newspaper now reports: "In the end, the oil company will continue to sponsor the Italian team".

Red Bull's driver program manager Dr Helmut Marko, however, insists that 20-year-old Sainz "convinced us" by winning the Formula Renault 3.5 title.

And he described the Spaniard's Abu Dhabi test in the Red Bull car recently as "very successful".

"He's done everything we expected, so I'd say he was the natural choice," Marko added.

Caterham allowed to use 2014 car next season
Caterham has been given special dispensation to contest the 2015 season with this year's car, should a buyer be found for the team.

Administrator Finbarr O'Connell took control of the outfit at the end of October and has been holding discussions with numerous parties.

The rule break means that a potential purchaser would not need to restart work on Caterham's 2015 project, giving them more time and reducing costs.

It is due to be ratified at this week's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Qatar, after the Formula 1 Commission and FIA reached an agreement.

"The F1 Commission and FIA agreed, if it would assist the weaker teams, they can use the 2014 car next year, so giving them more time and options," O'Connell told the Press Association.

"That is of interest to all the parties I'm talking to because it gives them a choice, an easier start to get into F1 if they chose that route. It helps."

After missing the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix, Caterham returned to the grid at the season-ending Abu Dhabi event via crowdfunding.

O'Connell outlined a three-week survival window at the race, but says it is no longer required that a sale is completed before Christmas.

"Before Christmas would still be ideal," said O'Connell. "It now doesn't have to happen by then, but the earlier the better from my point of view, and I'm encouraging people as much as I can.

"It's a very difficult purchase decision for any party because of the huge costs involved in running a F1 team. I'm still talking to a few interested parties, and I'm hoping one of them can do the deal.

"The number of people I'm talking to has increased, with two very strong candidates, and a third less strong."

Mark Webber has been released from the hospital after his crash in Sao Paulo

Webber released from hospital
Mark Webber has been released from hospital following his crash in the final round of the World Endurance Championship season at Interlagos.

Webber collided with the AF Corse Ferrari of Matteo Cressoni and slammed into the Turn 14 wall after losing control of his Porsche 919 late in Sunday's race.

The Australian suffered bruising and concussion in the accident, but was deemed well enough for release from Sao Paulo's Bandeirantes hospital on Monday afternoon.

Cressoni, who spent a night at the same hospital, was discharged earlier in the day.

Chilton exploring opportunities outside F1 where drivers get paid to drive
Max Chilton says he is evaluating numerous opportunities outside Formula 1 for 2015, following the collapse of the Marussia team. He wants to get paid to drive instead of having to buy your ride in cancer-stricken open wheel racing.

Marussia entered administration at the end of October, while a late attempt to return to the grid at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fell through.

And although the outfit has lodged an entry for next season under Manor Grand Prix, its assets are due to be auctioned off later this month.

Given the current situation, Chilton admits that he could be best served taking up an offer elsewhere, despite his underlying desire to remain in Formula 1.

"Obviously, there are less seats available for next year," Chilton told Sky Sports.

"I think the chance for me slightly slims down, but I think I have been given some opportunities in LMP1 and DTM, so maybe I have to change my career path and go down that route.

"But I'm still not giving up on Formula 1."

Chilton's brother, Tom, currently competes in the World Touring Car Championship.

Williams and Avanade Announce New Partnership Agreement
WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING is pleased to announce a new multi-year technology partnership agreement and sponsorship with Avanade, a global business technology, cloud and managed services provider.

Avanade and WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING will develop a suite of tools to ensure that the team fully optimizes its new enterprise platform. Williams will also be drawing on Avanade's expertise to make sure that future digital and cloud investments lead to improved business performance both on and off the race track. The partnership agreement and sponsorship will see the Avanade logo appear on the side pod leading edge of the team's racing cars and team apparel from the 2015 season onwards.

Avanade helps customers realize results in a digital world through business technology solutions, cloud and managed services that combine insight, innovation and expertise focused on Microsoft technologies. The company, founded in 2000 by Microsoft and Accenture, has 22,000 professionals in more than 20 countries.

Speaking about the new partnership Stella Goulet, Avanade chief marketing officer said; "Avanade is excited about becoming a technology partner and sponsor for WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING. Together with the team, we will leverage the Microsoft enterprise platform and focus on digital business priorities to optimize technology both on and off the track. Avanade highly values the development program in place at WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING focused on the next generation of women and engineers. We look forward to realizing results together as we build on our mutual business priorities."

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal and Commercial Director, added; "Williams has undertaken an ambitious project over the past 18 months to invest in new technologies that will help keep us at the cutting edge of motorsport and advanced engineering. With this new partnership we will be working closely with Avanade to make sure that our investments are delivering their full potential. Avanade also understands the strength of the synergies between our two companies in areas such as technology innovation, gender diversity and encouraging the study of STEM subjects in schools and we will be looking to continue to enhance our involvement in those areas."

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