Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Button's F1 career could soon be over

    Button admits McLaren decision could end career

  • Toro Rosso targets Suzuka debut for Verstappen
  • FIA clampdown dubbed 'Radio Ga-Ga' in Singapore
  • Massa tells Alonso to resist McLaren switch
  • Sixth engine penalty inevitable now for Vettel
  • Ravetto: Caterham already working on 2015
  • Maldonado gets new chassis after crash
  • Pirelli admits tire gap bigger than expected

Button admits McLaren decision could end career
(GMM) Jenson Button has acknowledged that McLaren's deliberations over its 2015 lineup could leave him without an alternative.

Amid the high uncertainty, an impression began to form at Monza recently that the British team would in fact not sign a top name like Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso next year.

At the same time, it was said that veteran Button and his manager had been enjoying much more promising talks with team supremo Ron Dennis.

McLaren boss Eric Boullier, however, is giving absolutely nothing away in Singapore.

"Wait for the decision and the announcement," he told reporters.

Button agreed: "Patience is a virtue — you all should be patient."

Boullier and Button's comments might be interpreted to mean that a decision has now been taken, and that the new policy of silence could mean an imminent announcement is pending.

But Button said: "There is still no answer."

And the 34-year-old admitted that the delay could compromise his entire F1 career.

"I think most (other) cockpits are already taken," he said.

So if McLaren does turn to someone else, Button could be left with the music stopped and little desire to accept whatever chairs are left vacant.

"I want to drive for a competitive team, otherwise as a world champion it would make little sense to keep going."

Toro Rosso targets Suzuka debut for Verstappen
(GMM) Toro Rosso intends to give Max Verstappen his F1 weekend debut in Japan early next month.

Earlier, it was expected that the second Red Bull team's confirmed 2015 rookie, who is still just 16, would debut in Friday practice sessions later this year.

But team boss Franz Tost said in Singapore that, after the Dutchman completed a test in Italy last week, he is now scheduled to drive at as soon as Suzuka next time out.

"He did 396 kilometers (in the test) without any problem," said the Austrian.

"People were really impressed with his performance and now it's in the hands of the FIA whether he gets a super license to do the Friday session in Suzuka.

"We will prepare him step by step and I am convinced that he is the correct driver for us for 2015," Tost added.

By Friday at Suzuka, Verstappen will be a few days over the age of 17.

FIA clampdown dubbed 'Radio Ga-Ga' in Singapore
(GMM) F1's intended clampdown on performance communications between teams and drivers has been dubbed 'Radio Ga-Ga' up and down the bemused paddock.

After the teams protested the speed and extremity with which Bernie Ecclestone and the governing FIA wielded the radio axe, it was agreed on the eve of practice in Singapore that messages related to car performance would now be allowed.

"Formula one's curious reputation for disposing of something simple and replacing it with something far more complex is in robust health," said Paul Weaver, correspondent for the Guardian newspaper.

It means that while radio calls about the performance of the car will still be allowed, messages about driver performance must no longer be uttered over the radio.

"This could be the most confusing radio story since Guglielmo Marconi bewildered everyone by banging on about electromagnetic radiation and wireless telegraphy more than a century ago," Weaver added.

Earlier, when all performance-related messages were going to be banned, Mercedes' title-warring drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton welcomed the news.

But with the watered-down ban in effect on Friday, they just sounded confused.

When Hamilton asked for an update about his rivals' pace, his race engineer replied: "We'll just continue with our program and discuss this when we get back in the garage."

Rosberg also didn't know what could be discussed remotely, asking over the radio: "Are you allowed to tell me my teammate's lap time?"

While the answer might have been unclear to some, retired F1 veteran David Coulthard called the entire 'Radio Ga-Ga' affair "largely pointless".

The FIA's Charlie Whiting addressed the media in Singapore and explained that while coded messages are strictly forbidden, messages of encouragement to drivers – for example Hamilton's now famous 'Hammer time' – are still acceptable.

Coulthard told the Telegraph: "The teams will manage to communicate messages to the drivers one way or another."

And even championship leader Rosberg admitted to Kolner Express newspaper: "Of course the teams will try to send the drivers hidden messages."

The driver steward at Suzuka next time out will be Coulthard's contemporary Mika Salo, and he said the 'Radio Ga-Ga' affair of the last few days has been "really weird".

"I think there should either be a complete ban, or no ban at all.

"The teams will just come up with codes and a number of other things that will now have to be looked at by the stewards," he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"In my opinion it's a strange rule because it's so difficult to police. We'll see what kind of mess I'm dealing with at the next race," Salo smiled.

Coulthard added: "It's a bit of red-herring and has just created a grey area. It seems to be all about perception rather than anything else."

Indeed, the ban has arguably been introduced to counter the perception that academic boffins and engineers are driving this year's complex cars rather than the 'heroes' themselves.

But Pat Symonds, Williams' technical boss who has worked with the likes of F1 legend Ayrton Senna, thinks the public should have been properly engaged.

"Unfortunately formula one doesn't ask the public what it does enjoy and that's a great shame," he is quoted by the Telegraph.

Symonds was among those who successfully argued to the FIA that not allowing the teams to instruct the drivers how to manage this year's complex hybrid cars was a major safety and cost issue.

"It's a half-way house," he said of the eventual compromise. "I think it's pragmatic. Whether it's sensible or not I think is open to debate."

Massa tells Alonso to resist McLaren switch
(GMM) Felipe Massa has advised his former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso to stick with the Italian team for now.

But the Brazilian, who lost his seat at the end of last year and has appeared much happier in 2014 at Williams, has joined those in surmising that fabled Ferrari appears to be sinking into its crisis-struck state of the distant past.

In the past days, weeks and months, as Maranello had to acknowledge its slump had extended into the all-new V6 era, Ferrari has shed multiple names including Domenicali, Marmorini and now the iconic di Montezemolo.

"What is happening there is honestly not something that surprises me," Massa, who raced a Ferrari since he was the great Michael Schumacher's teammate in 2006, told the Spanish sports daily AS in Singapore.

"Honestly, I hope only for good things for Ferrari."

But, having alluded to the new era of implosion, AS nonetheless asked Massa if he would advise Alonso to jump ship and – like him – start a happier chapter elsewhere.

"No," said Massa.

"It's different to me. If I was him I would not to go McLaren.

"Mercedes, yes. Red Bull, I don't know.

"He should only to a team where he can win and I think Honda and McLaren will be a good chapter but not for winning next year."

Not only that, but Alonso quitting Ferrari after five years without adding a further title to his collection would be deemed a failure.

"Yes, maybe, you could say that," Massa agreed.

"But Alonso is not stupid, he knows what to do. I think he will continue in Ferrari next year, but you know anything can always happen."

Finally, Massa insisted he is not surprised that his successor at Ferrari, the 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, has proved no match for Alonso in 2014.

"No," he said clearly, "because to be close to Alonso you have to do a perfect job. You have to be perfect. It is not a surprise to me."

Sixth engine penalty inevitable now for Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's bad season continued to get worse even at the Singapore circuit he humbled at the height of his dominant powers.

As the German and Red Bull struggle to get to the bottom of the reigning quadruple world champion's 2014 troubles, he has yet another different RB10 chassis at his disposal under the Asian city-state's popular lights.

But it was not the car, but the Renault 'power unit' that was not working in Friday practice, leaving Vettel without anything to drive at all.

And the news got even worse — with Vettel already running low in his allocation of five units for the whole season, the Singapore engine was "lost" amid Friday's troubles, Renault chief Remi Taffin admitted.

"The engine was at something like half-life, so it was quite a surprise and quite a shame, because we still had a small chance to go through the season without introducing a sixth unit," the Frenchman added.

"With this failure, we will have to commit to a sixth ICE (internal combustion engine)."

The sixth engine will carry with it a ten place grid penalty, although it will not necessarily have to be served on the tight and twisty streets of Singapore.

"It was a Friday engine," team boss Christian Horner said when asked about Vettel's Singapore failure.

Vettel commented: "Ideally we would have used it in Friday in Japan too. Obviously we can't now.

When he managed a few laps at the end of the second practice session on Friday, it was with the Singapore 'race' engine on board.

Red Bull and Renault will now be looking at the forthcoming races and deciding where it can best afford to slide Vettel ten places down the grid.

Taffin said: "It is now a question of where we are going to strategically introduce it, instead of how we are going to avoid it."

Team boss Christian Horner said: "Sebastian does not seem to have much luck at the moment."

Vettel tried to sound pragmatic.

"We already knew that eventually we would have to use another one (a sixth engine) this year. So I don't think this changes too much of our planning."

But his former teammate Mark Webber has said this year that Vettel seems to have inherited his unlucky car of past seasons.

Vettel, however – although a strict adherent to the games of superstition – prefers to put the difference between his and teammate Daniel Ricciardo's 2014 seasons down to chance.

"I think there is no reason," he said.

"Of course, there is always a reason why something breaks, but I mean there is no explanation as to why it happens to one car and not the other."

Ravetto: Caterham already working on 2015 car
Newly-appointed Caterham Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto insists that there are long-term plans in place at the outfit, despite its challenging season in 2014.

Ravetto joined Caterham following a takeover by a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors in July and was promoted to the team boss role following Christijan Albers' resignation after the Italian Grand Prix.

Despite speculation over Caterham's future in the sport, Ravetto says the squad intends to be on the 2015 grid and that next year's car is already being analyzed in Toyota's wind tunnel facility in Germany.

"The main goal is to stabilize the company, on the financial side as well as on the technical side," said Ravetto.

"We are very much focused on getting the best out of the current 2014 car but we are also working very hard on 2015. We are enjoying an excellent co-operation with Toyota and its wind tunnel in Cologne, where our next year's car is already testing."

When asked whether he was confident that Caterham will be on the grid in Australia next year, Ravetto responded: "Everybody knows the situation in which we found this team, in which state it was and we are just trying to keep it alive to improve and we are working, as I said, providing you with some details on the program for next year.

"Of course we want to be on the grid in Melbourne next year – that is definitely our goal."

Maldonado gets new chassis after crash
Pastor Maldonado has been forced to switch to a new chassis for the remainder of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, after suffering a sizeable crash during Friday practice at the Marina Bay street venue.

Maldonado lost control of his Lotus machine entering Turn 10 midway through the second night session and subsequently slammed into the outside wall, causing major damage to the front-right corner of the car.

Lotus mechanics have been building up a new car for Maldonado ahead of Saturday's final practice hour.

"The balance was quite snappy when the tires were a bit older and I lost the car in the middle of the corner, then the exit is quite narrow there which meant there was nowhere to go," the Venezuelan said of the incident.

Pirelli admits tire gap bigger than expected
F1 tire supplier Pirelli admits that the time difference between its supplied compounds in Singapore has been larger than it expected.

Drivers improved by around 2.5 seconds between the Soft and Super Soft rubber during Friday's second practice session at the Marina Bay venue.

Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said: "The time difference between the two compounds was perhaps slightly bigger than we expected.

"With the high incidence of Safety Cars [during previous editions of the race] and the speed advantage of the Super Soft, strategy will be an important consideration right from the very start of qualifying.

"Strategies will have to be flexible, and we would expect to see three pit-stops."

While the performance gap between the two compounds is sizeable, Hembery says degradation is similar.

"Thermal degradation will be the biggest challenge here, with the degradation levels of the Soft and the Super Soft tire actually not so different," he explained. "We need to look at the data from tomorrow as well in order to have a more complete idea of the optimal race strategy, but tire management will clearly play a significant role."

The Super Soft and Soft combination was previously used in Germany, Austria, Canada and Monaco.

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