Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Alonso ponders his future at Ferrari as rumors suggest Ecclestone is engineering a change to spice up the sport and to help a returning Honda with Vettel moving to Ferrari

    McLaren denies losing Johnnie Walker as sponsor

  • No team orders as Ricciardo title unlikely – Horner
  • Alonso staying at Ferrari 'for the moment' – boss
  • Symonds talks sense
  • Wolff admits Mercedes needs better reliability
  • Vettel questions timing of Hamilton move
  • Mattiacci upbeat over Ferrari progress in Singapore
  • Video: Rosberg reflects on Singapore retirement

McLaren denies losing Johnnie Walker as sponsor
(GMM) McLaren has hit back at reports it is set to lose Johnnie Walker as a sponsor.

The Mirror's Byron Young reported from Singapore on Sunday that, with Bernie Ecclestone securing the whisky brand as a new F1 sponsor, Johnnie Walker will now depart the beleaguered British grandee.

But McLaren has told us the report in the major British tabloid was incorrect, as "Johnnie Walker remains an important and valued sponsor of McLaren".

A team spokesman said the newspaper simply got the story "wrong".

"Yes, Johnnie Walker will be one of the sponsor logos on our 2015 car," he confirmed.

The McLaren spokesman also moved to clear up some confusion about the condition of Kevin Magnussen after Sunday's highly physical Singapore grand prix.

Reports claimed the Danish rookie had been treated for burns and dehydration in the medical centre after his McLaren overheated and his on-board drinking water boiled, but Magnussen insisted on Twitter: "That's a bit exaggerated.

"I was just hot and sweaty!"

But the McLaren spokesman said Magnussen, 21, was indeed treated for "nasty burns" and then tried to "make light of it" on Twitter as he is a "tough Viking boy!"

It is believed Toro Rosso's 20-year-old Daniil Kvyat was also dehydrated after his drink bottle failed in Singapore, while world champion Sebastian Vettel was suffering "severe stomach cramps" whilst spraying champagne on the podium.

Germany's RTL television said the Red Bull driver cancelled some of his media commitments after the race as he suffered from the effects of dehydration.

Just before he left the reporters, SID news agency quoted him as explaining the feeling of being passed for the lead by the winning Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

"Imagine driving a Fiat Panda and behind you is a Porsche 911," he said.

No team orders as Ricciardo title unlikely – Horner
(GMM) Christian Horner has all but written off Daniel Ricciardo's chances of beating the Mercedes drivers to the 2014 title.

Amid his impressive first campaign for Red Bull, Australian Ricciardo is undoubtedly the only real non-silver challenger for the drivers' world championship.

In third place, he is 48 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, and 57 points ahead of his own teammate, the reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.

But Vettel finished just ahead of Ricciardo under the Singapore lights, despite the Australian having called for team orders heading into the street race weekend.

"I would love to be quicker on merit and not need team orders, but the next couple of tracks are perfect for us so if we need to make any decisions if we can challenge Mercedes for the title then I am sure they will be made," he had said.

But boss Horner said the performance and points advantage held by Mercedes with five races to go is now so big that Red Bull will not be asking Vettel to move aside.

"It would be wrong to interfere," he said, "given the situation we are in. We let them race as you saw.

"Daniel knew before the race – some time ago in fact – that that would be the case," added Horner.

"If there was a realistic chance of Daniel winning and Sebastian was mathematically out of the championship then of course we would do the best we can for the team. But the situation we are in at the moment — it's a long shot."

Horner is also quoted by Auto Motor und Sport as saying after Sunday's grand prix: "The gap Mercedes has is enormous.

"Yes, Daniel caught up a bit on Rosberg but at the same time lost 3 points to Sebastian. Will it make any difference? It's hard to say.

"But for the moment it makes no sense for us to intervene."

It might be surmised that with Vettel now regaining his form amid reports of tough contract negotiations to retain him, Red Bull's decision might be a political one.

Horner added: "They (Ricciardo and Vettel) still both have a chance mathematically, even though it's a long shot as I said.

"So it's down to them racing each other on the track. Both of them are still just in it, and both have taken a chunk of points out of Nico (Rosberg)."

Ricciardo says he is comfortable with Red Bull's decision, despite admitting the matter had been discussed "briefly" behind closed doors.

"It's refreshing to be able to race your teammate," he said. "We've had some great battles so if it continues like this for the next few races then that's fine and that's fair."

Clearly, however, Ricciardo would prefer to be on the helpful end of some team orders, giving a coy "yes and no" answer as to whether he wants them deployed.

"If anything, it (Red Bull's decision) makes me more hungry to be in front without needing any help," he said. "It's nothing against him (Vettel) or the team.

"We race properly. It's fair. And it's not like if he helps me out, I'm definitely going to win.

"We're long shots," Ricciardo conceded. "We need a bit of luck more than we need small team orders. Whoever's in front should be allowed to stay in front."

Alonso staying at Ferrari 'for the moment' – boss
(GMM) As was uttered by a paddock dweller in Singapore this weekend, "There's no smoke without fire".

He was referring to the 'Fernando Alonso situation', as the Spaniard's future continues to be the subject of high speculation in formula one circles.

In Singapore, Alonso expressed what appeared to be genuine anger during his media round with foreign-language reporters on Thursday, threatening to reveal the identity of the source of the latest rumors emerging from Italy.

The implication was that the leak was from within the walls of Maranello itself, amid speculation McLaren-Honda has not given up its quest to secure the highly-paid, highly-coveted and undoubtedly frustrated Ferrari driver.

On Sunday, yet more 'smoke' from the Alonso camp continued to rise, after Niki Lauda said that "Without Fernando Alonso, Ferrari would be nowhere".

Alonso seemed to do little to dispel that impression when he remarked after finishing fourth in Singapore that "The other Ferrari is 45 seconds behind me".

Then came some curious comments not only from Alonso, but also the Ferrari team boss Marco Mattiacci.

Mattiacci has said on a couple of occasions in the past days that Ferrari will be fielding an unchanged driver lineup in 2015.

When asked the question yet again under Singapore's artificial late-night light, he answered on Sunday: "Fernando will continue. For the moment — yes."

And when also musing Alonso's future, the Italian newspaper La Stampa quoted the Spanish driver as revealing that "There is an ongoing discussion" taking place behind closed doors.

Symonds talks sense
Critical of the hurriedly enforced radio ban, Williams Pat Symonds is also unhappy at the sport's failure to listen to its fans.
Curiously, when asked about the ban on performance radio communications at the official press conference on Friday, Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn claimed that it resulted from "complaints that were raised by the fans".

Ignoring the fact that the sport has never really listened to the complains of fans, and certainly not reacted with such haste, just twenty-four hours earlier Bernie Ecclestone had taken credit for the move.

At a subsequent media briefing which only further muddied the waters, when asked who was responsible for the ban, Charlie Whiting would only reveal that it followed a meeting of the Strategy Group in Monza.

Pressed a little harder the Briton merely replied; "it's not for me to say what goes on in those meetings", which suggests that it was indeed Mr. Ecclestone… and not a group of frustrated fans banging down the doors.

Whilst reaction to the ban amongst fans appears mixed, and taking Kaltenborn's curious claim into account, it was interesting to hear Williams Pat Symonds speak on the issue at the weekend.

"Unfortunately Formula One doesn't ask the public what it does enjoy and that's a great shame," he told Sky Sports News.

Symonds has often shown he has his finger on the pulse regarding such matters, a couple of years back he asked why the sport wasn't actively engaging with sports fans who chose to spend their weekends out shopping rather than watching qualifying or the race. At the time, Pitpass asked why the sort wasn’t engaging with F1 fans who were out shopping rather than watching qualifying or the race.

Interestingly, despite Ecclestone's belief that social media is a 'passing fad', the official F1 website began ramping up its Twitter activity at the weekend, even if much of the content – obligingly re-tweeted by a number of the teams – was as soulless and prosaic as one might expect.

Perhaps, the sport should spend a bit more time listening to the likes of Symonds, after all, he like many others working in the sport, began and remains a fan. Pitpass.com

Wolff admits Mercedes needs better reliability
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted that the squad needs to improve its reliability as the championship fight enters its decisive final stage, after Nico Rosberg was forced to retire from the Singapore Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg lost the lead of the Drivers' Championship to team-mate Lewis Hamilton after a steering column wiring loom failure left him starting from the pits, before he had to retire due to the persisting problems.

Mechanical issues have impacted both drivers this season, the pair having retired twice due to mechanical failure, while Hamilton started from the back of the grid in Germany and Hungary after problems in qualifying.

Wolff concedes that it is an aspect of Mercedes' W05 Hybrid which requires attention.

"It was a bitter afternoon for Nico," he said. "It looks like a loom in the steering column failed and that was the root of his problems.

"When he came back to the garage, I told him we were sorry to have let him down – and he handled the whole situation in a very professional way.

"We have a missile of a car this year but these reliability issues keep tripping us up. The parts will be sent back to base for forensic analysis by our reliability group. We have an excellent team dedicated to quality and we will track down this failure and make sure it does not happen again."

Vettel questions timing of Hamilton move
Sebastian Vettel reckons Lewis Hamilton took more risks than he needed to when passing him during Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix.

Vettel, on a two-stop plan, moved into the lead after Hamilton narrowly failed to build up enough of a gap ahead of his third visit to the pits.

Despite there being seven laps to the finish, Hamilton decided to pass Vettel on the following tour, slipping up the inside of him at Turn 6.

"I wasn't sure what he was doing," Red Bull driver Vettel, who had won the previous three races in Singapore, said of his Mercedes rival.

"I gave him all the space to pass me on the inside of the next corner but he couldn't wait to get back in the lead.

"I had to back off and let him through; there was no point fighting. To finish second was the best we could do."

Vettel said his tire life was "borderline" in the closing laps after stopping for the final time under the mid-race Safety Car, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso pushing him through to the finish.

"I had a good start and got past Daniel, but the Safety Car came at the worst possible moment," he said.

"We stayed out. It was very borderline as there was pressure from Daniel and Fernando but we made it."

Mattiacci upbeat over Ferrari progress in Singapore
Ferrari Team Principal Marco Mattiacci says he is confident that his squad is improving following its showing in the Singapore Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso raced to fourth position, while Kimi Räikkönen was eighth, enabling Ferrari to close the gap to Williams in the fight for third place in the Constructors' Championship.

Mattiacci was pleased by Ferrari's response to a difficult race last time out in Italy and expressed satisfaction by its relative competitiveness across the duration of the weekend.

"The race could have delivered us a better result, because thanks to a quick response from the team after the disappointing outcome of the Grand Prix in Monza, we were competitive all weekend long," said Mattiacci.

"Our pace was good and thanks to the strategy, with Fernando we managed to run second, but it later slipped from our grasp during the course of the race. Kimi was held up by traffic and slowed with tire degradation and, although he got a good start, he was unable to retake the places he had made up."

"The variable of the Safety Car altered our strategy projections, affecting the outcome of the race."

Mattiacci is hopeful that Ferrari can sustain its improved performance into the next round of the championship, which takes place in Japan in two weeks' time.

"I firmly believe that the only strategy for winning is to be able to count on a competitive car," he said.

"Now we leave Singapore having shown signs of progress: on this front, Suzuka will provide a very interesting test bench, because it will allow us to go deeper into our development work in areas in which we want to improve."

Video: Rosberg reflects on Singapore retirement
A strong showing on Saturday yielded little reward for Nico at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as an early mechanical retirement brought his race to a premature end.

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