Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Mercedes not ruling out a Hamilton replacement

    Mercedes not ruling out driver lineup change

  • Sorry Lauda keeps opinion about Rosberg crash
  • Struggling Vettel not racing Ricciardo's chassis
  • Bottas hints contract news coming 'soon'
  • Kobayashi 'not happy' with Caterham situation
  • Button 'amazed' by Grosjean comments
  • Williams F1 team explains $35 million losses so far in 2014
  • Chilton certain his check was big enough to keep his seat for rest of season

Mercedes not ruling out driver lineup change
(GMM) Right at the front of the grid, the 2015 'silly season' is threatening to burst into life.

On paper, the top teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – are all locked up contractually.

But Romain Grosjean, the Lotus driver looking for a change of scene, thinks Fernando Alonso is still the "key" that could unlock a torrent of action.

Jenson Button, also waiting on his future, isn't so sure.

"I don't really think he (Alonso) is the key," said the 2009 world champion. "I think the two McLaren drivers are probably the key."

Indeed, McLaren has been the source of a lot of the rumors lately, with the Woking team wanting a truly top star to lead the new Honda era.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is one name linked with a huge-money move, and at Monza he is not denying that talks have taken place.

"It is not the first time I have been approached in the last couple of years which obviously is nice, but it is not my style to share (publicly)," said the German.

"At Spa I heard on Thursday that I'd signed for 150 million pounds for three years — I was asking where the pen was but nobody came back!" Vettel joked.

Lewis Hamilton may also still be in the running, after the 2008 world champion on Thursday denied Mercedes boss Toto Wolff's recent claim that contract talks have been frozen amid the intensity of the title battle.

And the latest development is that Wolff is not ruling out a change to the German squad's driver lineup should the increasingly bitter Hamilton and Rosberg feud prove impossible to manage.

"We would have to take decisions and take the consequences of having a different lineup," Wolff told the BBC at Monza.

"If we are not able to manage the two of them following the Mercedes-Benz spirit then we need to admit that."

Further down the grid, Nico Hulkenberg gave the strongest sign yet that he is not a player on the driver market this time around.

He said it "can be assumed" that he is staying at Force India in 2015.

"I am very comfortable where I am sitting," Hulkenberg told German reporters at Monza. "I have no headaches."

It's not quite the same situation for his teammate Sergio Perez, as Spaniard Dani Juncadella is knocking on the door with sponsor Astana in tow.

"I have only read newspaper reports," Mexican Perez said when asked about Juncadella.

"I'm not worried. It's not like a year ago with McLaren — I have a greater role in the decision-making now and I feel comfortable at Force India."

Sorry Lauda keeps opinion about Rosberg crash
(GMM) At Mercedes, the apologies are flying around like so much shattered carbon fiber.

Contrite after his run-in with teammate Lewis Hamilton at Spa, Nico Rosberg at Monza revealed that boss Niki Lauda also said sorry for his harsh criticism in the heated moments after the explosive Belgian grand prix.

"Yes, it's true," Rosberg admitted, "and that was a nice gesture which I have fully accepted of course."

Austrian Lauda, however, said his opinion of the Belgian crash has not changed, despite the apology.

"I apologized because I had not talked to him first," the F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman told Bild.

"That was not fair because Nico could not first explain his view of things. Saying sorry is not a problem for me.

"Nevertheless, I stand by my opinion that it was his fault," Lauda added.

The Hamilton-Rosberg clash remains the hot topic at Monza, and some are getting the impression that – amid all the noise – the big winner has in fact been Mercedes' marketing men.

"That is what Bernie (Ecclestone) told me," team boss Toto Wolff acknowledged. "That it was the best for formula one and for us. But 43 points out the window — that's not petty stuff."

F1 supremo Ecclestone, however, has no intention of getting into the debate about who was to blame or whether the FIA should have penalized Rosberg.

"The problem of having two winning drivers in the same team has been the same in formula one forever," he told Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

Retired double world champion Mika Hakkinen is also not sure what all the fuss is about.

"I was in formula one a long time," he told SID news agency, "and I think two teammates fighting hard against each other is a pretty normal situation.

"Especially when the car is so strong — that only one of them can win the world championship creates a lot of tension," Hakkinen added.

Reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel is also playing down the entire affair, saying what happened in Belgium "looked like a normal racing incident".

"And I was right behind," the Red Bull driver smiled.

"Maybe I'm not talented enough," Vettel joked, "but I could not deliberately cut someone's tire with my front wing and just keep going myself.

"I liked that the FIA didn't intervene. What was funny was to see their team as the ones who did the punishing," added Vettel.

Struggling Vettel not racing Ricciardo's chassis
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's 'new' Red Bull chassis for Monza and beyond is not the one used to such good effect by on-form teammate Daniel Ricciardo in 2014.

However, Germany's Sport Bild reports that the team did briefly consider giving Australian Ricciardo a different RB10 while Vettel takes a turn in the title-contending machine.

But Vettel will be using an entirely different 'Suzie' at Monza, after struggling so notably for Ricciardo's pace two weeks ago in Belgium.

"We have found a couple of things (on the old chassis) and so it should help us here," the reigning quadruple world champion said.

Vettel smiled that the 'new' chassis is in fact a 'new old' one, but he played down the significance of the change amid his disappointing 2014 campaign.

"It was always the plan to change it at some point," he told German reporters at Monza. "It's not unusual.

"The last race was not very good for us so we decided to use the opportunity to check everything."

Former double world champion Mika Hakkinen tips Vettel to eventually bounce back from his slump.

"With time, he will get the car back where he wants it and then he will attack again," the Finn told Germany's SID news agency.

As for the 2014 title, however, Vettel's campaign is already essentially over.

Instead, Bernie Ecclestone is tipping teammate Ricciardo as a genuine challenger to the warring Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

"Ricciardo can be world champion this season," the F1 chief executive told Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

"At the start I was convinced that Mercedes would be too far ahead, but now I'm not so sure," Ecclestone added.

The 83-year-old said his unpopular Abu Dhabi 'double points' finale boosts Ricciardo's chances even more, and so too might team orders — with Vettel forced to fall in line and support his teammate's push.

The smiling Australian, however, plays down that likelihood.

"It's still too early for that," Ricciardo said at Monza.

"At the most, maybe if three or four races before the end of the season I have a chance to compete for the title, we might discuss it."

Bottas hints contract news coming 'soon'
(GMM) Recently linked with McLaren's quest for a top driver lineup for the Honda era, Valtteri Bottas' future is suddenly not a topic in the F1 paddock.

According to Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper, that is because the on-form Finn looks set to stay put at Williams.

"Maybe we will hear something quite soon," 25-year-old Bottas is quoted as admitting.

Indeed, correspondent Heikki Kulta said Bottas "smiled" as he insisted that he is not feeling "any kind of pressure" with regards to his contractual situation.

Even his F1 veteran teammate Felipe Massa acknowledges that the promise shown by Bottas in 2014 "definitely" marks him out as a champion of the future.

"He's a great driver," the Brazilian is quoted by AFP. "It's clear he's doing everything correct. People need to see him as a great driver in the field."

Kobayashi 'not happy' with Caterham situation
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi may be back on the grid, but that doesn't mean he is "happy".

As Caterham's new management took hold, the Japanese was sidelined in Belgium two weeks ago in favor of Andre Lotterer and his sponsor Hype.

"I think it was also the Wednesday (before the race)," he admitted to reporters at Monza.

"I was at the factory, working in the simulator and at about lunch I was told that I wouldn't race in Spa.

"I still went there but not to the track. I stayed at the hotel rather than causing problems in the paddock.

"There just would have been a lot of questions but I didn't have an answer as to why I wasn't racing," said Kobayashi.

This time around, while Kobayashi was in Tokyo mere hours ago, it was clear that Lotterer and Roberto Merhi were at the front of the queue for the Monza seat.

Ultimately, Spaniard Merhi did not get a full F1 super license. And Lotterer turned down the chance because he would have had to sit out practice.

Asked on Thursday when he got the call to come to Monza, Kobayashi answered: "Yesterday.

"I was in Tokyo. It was all last-minute."

Kobayashi, known and loved for his fighting spirit, was already not particularly enjoying life at the back of the grid when team owner Tony Fernandes pulled the plug.

"The situation is difficult," the 27-year-old admitted on Thursday.

"First of all I'm interested in racing. I want to race. But what happens in the last couple of weeks is not much about sport. I think it was political decisions.

"We had to negotiate even with lawyers — definitely it is a difficult situation," said Kobayashi.

"I think the team is in a difficult position.

"When I look at the news, I think everything is pretty obvious. Roberto will drive in the first practice and Andre was not very pleased with it. So they called me."

Asked if he considered joining Lotterer in saying "no", Kobayashi answered: "I have a contract.

"If they say I work on the simulator, I work on the simulator. If they say I stay at home, I stay at home."

Asked if he is happy, Kobayashi said: "Am I happy? No. But there's not much I can do.

"I am trying to maintain good relationships, as far as it is possible. But if they want to survive, maybe they are forced to be in this situation."

It is obvious that Caterham's plan is to show Merhi is up to speed on Friday morning, before his backers step up to the grid for Singapore and beyond.

Kobayashi acknowledged that he and his management are looking ahead to a different future.

"Of course we need to think about other options and see what we can do," he said. "First the top teams have to make their choice and then comes the rest."

Button 'amazed' by Grosjean comments
Jenson Button says he is "amazed" by Romain Grosjean's suggestion that Fernando Alonso is the key to this year's driver market.

Ferrari driver Alonso has recently been linked with a return to McLaren, but he spoke out this week confirming that he has no intention to leave Maranello and that he had entered talks to extend his stay beyond 2016.

"It doesn't change my cause. It doesn't change anything as he was always staying at Ferrari," Button said.

When Grosjean's comments about Alonso were put to him, Button responded: "Yeah, which amazes me.

"I know drivers say they don't read the press. We only don't read the press when you say something horrible about us, we pretend we don't read the press! That [Grosjean's suggestion] surprised me. I don't think he's the key to the driver market, the two McLaren drivers are probably the key to the driver market, I would say."

Button also clarified comments about retiring at the end of the season if he is not handed a fresh deal.

"I said if I wasn't racing at the end of the season, then so be it. That's what I said. If I'm not racing at the end of the season, then so be it. I can't do much about that," the former World Champion explained.

"But it's not that I'm getting ready as I definitely don't want to retire for many years, but when you're asked the question so many times you've got to say something different else it gets boring."

Williams F1 team explains $35 million losses so far in 2014
Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC (WGPH, Ticker: WGF1) today announced its interim results for the six months to 30 June 2014. WGPH is the holding company of the Williams Group of companies, which includes Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited.

Overall Group income for the period was £46.6m (2013: £56.4m), with EBIT of £(17.1)m (2013: £(2.7)m). The year over year reduction in revenue and earnings is accounted for by the recognition in 2013 of a special non-recurring sponsorship payment for 2014 within last year’s accounts.

Group Chief Executive Officer Mike O’Driscoll said, "At the beginning of the second half of last year we began an ambitious strategy to rebuild the Formula One organization, develop a strong Advanced Engineering division, and divest non-core operations. We have already made substantial progress towards our objectives.

"This strategy has required significant investment, as illustrated by our first half results, and it is anticipated that this will also impact the full year results.

"After a number of disappointing seasons, our Formula One team has been significantly strengthened across all key functions. Our long-term power unit supply agreement with Mercedes provides strength and stability. As a consequence we have made a significant step-change in our on-track performance. We have also made great progress commercially, underscored by our title partnership agreement with Martini.

"Williams Advanced Engineering is also evolving, as it completes its move into a new £8m facility that opened in the second quarter of 2014. This new base of operations will provide the business with the opportunity to increase its project portfolio and we are seeing a strong pull from the market for the company’s unique offering of energy efficient performance technologies.

"These financial results are in line with the Board’s expectation of what is required to rebuild and reinvigorate the team and we believe that they reflect the transitionary period that we must continue to work through if we are to realize the potential of the Group."

Sir Frank Williams, Founder and Team Principal, added, "Our on track performance through the first half of this season is evidence that we have started to build a solid foundation for the future. Our long-term financial prosperity will of course always be a reflection, both directly and indirectly, of our Formula One performance. The impressive upturn in our performance this season is validating our approach."

Chilton certain his check was big enough to keep his seat for rest of season
Max Chilton says he is certain that his Marussia drive is safe for the rest of the 2014 campaign because his check was big enough to keep the team afloat.

Marussia announced shortly before the Belgian Grand Prix that Alexander Rossi would be replacing Chilton amid "contractual issues", only for the team to make a U-turn and put the Briton back in the car after first practice.

When asked ahead of the Italian Grand Prix if the situation had been resolved and that there are no doubts over his involvement at the flyaway events, Chilton replied: "Yes. It was just a commercial decision and it got changed.

"We are back to normal now and moving on. I'm definitely in for every race, although FP1 sessions are open and that is the team's decision. As long as I get informed the week before that I am missing FP1, it is not a problem."

Chilton graduated to F1 with Marussia last year after a competitive GP2 term with the then-affiliated Carlin team.

Leave a Reply