Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • DTM champ Marco Wittmann not willing to buy a ride in F1 when he's paid to drive in DTM. Real athletes don't buy their way onto the playing field. In Open Wheel Racing you do.

    Todt tips Ferrari to end crisis quickly

  • DTM champion Wittmann not dreaming of F1
  • Vettel 'most expensive item' at Red Bull – Marko
  • Highs and lows in 2014 for new Merc reserve Wehrlein
  • F1 teams admit concerns over ticket prices
  • Wolff: Rosberg and Hamilton 'enemies'
  • Renault expects its inferior engine to be closer in Singapore
  • Vergne: I have potential to be like Ricciardo

Todt tips Ferrari to end crisis quickly
(GMM) Jean Todt insists Ferrari is not in the sort of crisis today that he found at Maranello more than two decades ago.

The Frenchman, now FIA president, said any comparison between when he was drafted in by Luca di Montezemolo to rebuild the team in 1993 and Ferrari's current situation "makes me smile".

"I think Ferrari, today, does not need an awful lot to put things back in order," Todt, who presided over Ferrari throughout its ultra-successful Michael Schumacher era until last decade, told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

Ferrari, having failed to win a drivers' title since 2007 and faltering at the start of the all-new V6 era, has shed multiple top personnel this season including team boss Stefano Domenicali and now long-time president Montezemolo.

But Todt, 68, insists: "This is absolutely not (comparable to) the situation I found when I arrived in 1993 at a completely devastated myth."

Others, however, including former team driver Alain Prost, have compared Ferrari's troubles in 2014 to the shambolic 1991 season, when he was fired for criticizing the state of the car and team.

"I disagree," Todt said.

"I find all these criticisms of Ferrari today unjust," he insisted.

"When (Fernando) Alonso retired at Monza, he was the driver who until then had the record for the most number of grands prix always in the points," said Todt.

"But when I started, it was a miracle if the car finished the race."

However, Todt does not criticize Fiat-Chrysler chairman Sergio Marchionne for removing Montezemolo, undoubtedly the man most universally recognized as representing the past and present of Ferrari.

"Montezemolo has been president for 23 years," said Todt, "which is a very long time.

"At some point, in large groups, this (sort of change) is normal. Even for myself, I always knew that a period eventually closes."

Meanwhile, Todt was present for the first ever race of the FIA-sanctioned Formula E race in Beijing last weekend, and he predicts a bright future for the category.

He revealed that representatives of many car manufacturers were all also present, including those from Japan but also from "France, Germany and China".

DTM champion Wittmann not dreaming of F1
(GMM) Marco Wittmann may be the newly-crowned DTM champion, but he is not dreaming about a future in formula one.

Although Paul di Resta set a precedent for launching a F1 career off the back of dominance in the premier German touring car series, 24-year-old Wittmann is happy for now in DTM.

Last weekend at the Lausitzring, driving for BMW, the German sealed the 2014 drivers' title with two rounds to spare.

But as for success breeding thoughts of moving into motor racing's premier category F1, Wittmann insists that "At the moment it is absolutely not a topic for me".

"I feel extremely comfortable with BMW in the DTM," he told Speed Week.

Wittmann explained that the major turn-off about formula one at present is the increasingly dominant 'pay driver' situation.

"When you see young drivers placing suitcases of money at the door, that is not the point of the sport from a driver's perspective," he admitted.

Another DTM driver with the same attitude is Timo Glock, who lost his Marussia seat at the end of 2012 and – like Wittmann – now drives a BMW in the DTM.

He said: "You can only really think about F1 if you have a suitcase full of money.

"So you can only get chosen by one of the top teams, or find someone who pays for you for a year.

"But then you have no guarantee that you are going to go beyond that," said Glock, 32, who also drove in F1 for the now-departed Toyota.

"The bad thing is that it costs you 5 to 10 million (euros), but that only gets you one year. Then someone with a thicker wallet could come along."

Glock said that situation in F1 means that many talented youngsters like Wittmann are now asking themselves the question: "If I have a contract, am I going to sacrifice everything for a year in which I need to pay a sack full of money?

"If I was his (Wittmann's) manager, I would advise him to stay with BMW," added Glock.

Vettel 'most expensive item' at Red Bull – Marko
(GMM) Contract negotiations between reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull may now be in full swing.

On Tuesday, rampant speculation that the German could be about to complete a 'seat swap' with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso for 2015 was denied.

"There is nothing new," Vettel told Sport Bild. "I have a contract with Red Bull and I'm happy where I am."

And Dr Helmut Marko added: "Alonso will definitely not be at Red Bull."

Curiously, Marko's denial did not mention Vettel, who has struggled to match new teammate Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 and is now linked with a big-money offer to spearhead the new McLaren-Honda alliance.

It could be that the Vettel-to-Ferrari rumor this week is directly related to Red Bull's efforts to re-sign the 27-year-old beyond his 2016 contract but at a much lower rate of pay.

Insiders have tipped Red Bull to address the huge difference between Vettel's retainer and that of his impressive new teammate Ricciardo, who currently earns many multiples less than the reigning quadruple world champion.

At the height of the Vettel-Alonso seat swap speculation this week, Red Bull's Marko named Vettel as one of the Milton Keynes-based team's "most expensive" outlays.

Referring to Red Bull's decision to give struggling Vettel a fourth chassis of the season to use in Singapore, he said: "Mr. Vettel is one of our most expensive items.

"And if we cannot make the most of that, that's bad," he is quoted by Germany's major daily Bild-Zeitung.

"It cannot be that we cannot exploit the potential of our most valuable member because we are not giving him the best car," added Marko.

Highs and lows in 2014 for new Merc reserve Wehrlein
(GMM) Pascal Wehrlein's 2014 has had both its dizzying highs and its appalling lows.

The high has been the last few weeks — the teenaged German became the youngest ever DTM winner at the Lausitzring last weekend, mere days after making his F1 test debut with his employer Mercedes.

Wehrlein has also been working hard all year in the Brackley based team's simulator, with Toto Wolff saying: "Aside from Nico (Rosberg) and Lewis (Hamilton), he is the driver most familiar with all the procedures of our (2014) W05 and therefore the right choice for the role of reserve driver."

He will begin travelling with the F1 team this weekend in Singapore, and is therefore first in line to race the dominant silver car if the title-warring teammates are unable.

But it hasn't been all smooth sailing for Wehrlein in 2014.

At the end of May, he and Rosberg were taking part in a promotional event for Mercedes as part of the German world cup team's preparations in Italy.

The road car driven in the demonstration by Wehrlein struck and injured two bystanders.

"Wehrlein swerved to the left off the course and then he hit them," an eyewitness said at the time.

Germany's Sport1 reports that one of the bystanders was so badly injured he only woke from his coma at the end of July.

But according to Wehrlein's manager Dietmar Kohli, there is no longer any risk of legal consequences for the young driver.

"Pascal is in close contact with the victim and his wife," Kohli said. "Both of us have visited him in the hospital."

He added that Wehrlein has dealt with the incident and its aftermath "very professionally".

Germany's Focus reports that, under Italian law, Wehrlein could only have been prosecuted if the victim had filed a formal complaint.

So local prosecutor Guido Rispoli agreed that it is "likely" the matter into the incident will be closed.

Earlier, Rispoli had clearly pointed the finger at Wehrlein, insisting the distance between Rosberg's car and the one driven by the teenager at 100kph was "clearly too low".

F1 teams admit concerns over ticket prices
(GMM) F1 team bosses have identified high ticket prices as a major problem for the sport, according to the Telegraph.

The British newspaper said crowd numbers at some of the sport's most traditional venues including Spa, Hockenheim and Monza have been notably down in 2014.

The sport has struggled for traction this year as some fans bemoan the loss of the screaming V8 engine note and the increasing complexity of the technology and rules.

At the same time, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is notoriously tough in his negotiations with circuits over the race sanctioning fees, which often results in the promoters having to charge exorbitantly high amounts to the paying public.

The situation prompted team bosses to bring the matter up in their most recent meeting with Ecclestone.

"We have dared to discuss ticket prices," revealed Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, "and we discussed the impact and the importance of the traditional circuits like Spa, like Monza, like Hockenheim.

"Races like that need to be part of the race calendar. This is a global sport," he explained.

"We need to go abroad and we need to conquer new territories and new countries, this always has been the case, but I guess it is pretty clear what needs to be done to fill the grandstands in the traditional races such as Hockenheim and Monza," said Wolff.

McLaren supremo Ron Dennis has also raised his concerns about spectator numbers in 2014, calling for an investigation into the phenomenon.

"How can we go to Silverstone and Austria and it be absolutely full, and then we go to Germany and it's half full?" he asked. "There must be a reason.

"We can all guess, but that's not very scientific. We've really got to understand why these things happen.

"Is it ticketing prices? Is it national heroes? Whatever it is we have to address it," said Dennis.

Wolff: Rosberg and Hamilton 'enemies'
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are almost like "enemies" now as the battle for the Formula 1 drivers' title heads into its decisive final stage.

Rosberg takes a 22 point lead over Hamilton into the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, the 14th round in the championship, but it is the Briton who arguably has the momentum after winning last time out in Italy.

The relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton has been severely tested this year and the collision at Spa recently saw it plummet to new lows.

"It has changed from, let us say, an almost amicable relationship at the beginning of the season to a very intense moment [in Belgium], where it was almost like realizing these two are enemies competing for the world title," Wolff told BBC Sport.

"It is also a learning process [for them]," Wolff continued. "These boys have been calibrated their whole life that their main priority is to win the drivers' championship in F1.

"And here they go – they are in the same car, competing against each other for that trophy and one is going to win and one is going to fail.

"This is a new experience for them – a difficult experience maybe."

Renault expects its inferior engine to be closer in Singapore
Renault is expecting its power unit to fare much better at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.

The French manufacturer's deficit to pace-setters Mercedes was highlighted at Monza, where Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel were the best of the Renault-powered drivers in distant fifth and sixth positions.

But Remi Taffin, Renault Sport F1's Head of Track Operations, says the Marina Bay street track, featuring the highest number of corners on the current Formula 1 calendar (23), will bring its unit closer to the competition.

"Singapore should suit the Renault Energy F1-2014 far more than the previous two tracks," said Taffin.

"We've made good progress in energy recovery and management and these two elements are key to success here. We know the competition will still have an edge, but we expect to be closer here than we were at Monza."

Taffin says Renault will prioritize one-lap pace in Singapore given the added importance of qualifying.

"Getting a good position in qualifying, which should be possible, will set the tone for the race," Taffin went on to explain, "so the focus will be to maximize the one-lap pace and start as far forward as possible."

The past three editions of the Singapore Grand Prix have been won by reigning World Champion Vettel.

Vergne: 'I have potential to be like Ricciardo'
Jean-Eric Vergne believes he has the "potential" to do as well as Daniel Ricciardo in Formula 1, providing he is given the chance.

Vergne faces an uncertain future after Toro Rosso confirmed he would be replaced by Max Verstappen next year.

The Frenchman was one of the candidates considered by Red Bull to replace Mark Webber 12 months ago, when the Australian announced his retirement from Formula 1. However, in the end Vergne lost out to his then team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo has since made the most of the opportunity, winning three races this year and impressively outshining reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel. Vergne reckons that is a positive for him, given the two were quite evenly matched at Toro Rosso.

"Daniel in a way is a good help for me because some teams expect world champion drivers, but maybe [the future] is not in world champion drivers, but in younger drivers who are really hungry and motivated, and that is what I am," Vergne told ESPNF1.com.

"When you look at my results compared to Daniel all of our career, I have the potential to be what he is."

"Doing three years at Toro Rosso makes me very strong," he added. "If the key people in some teams trust me, and trust that I can make it [then I have a chance]."

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