Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Jean Todt may be forced to cancel Russian GP

    Colleague says Todt concerned about Russia GP

  • Teammate war 'valuable' for F1, Mercedes – Haug
  • Schumacher could return home by Christmas
  • Ferrari doubts Mercedes can be caught by 2015
  • Caterham confirms Kobayashi return
  • McLaren announces $40M 2013 profit
  • Mallya to take legal action against 'willful defaulter' tag
  • Vatanen calls for Russian GP boycott
  • Rosberg: Ricciardo a 'serious rival' for title
  • Steiner: Ferrari deal an honor for Haas F1

Colleague says Todt concerned about Russia GP
(GMM) Jean Todt is concerned about the viability of next month's inaugural grand prix.

That is the claim of Ari Vatanen, an FIA official who once stood against Todt for the presidency of F1's governing body but is now one of his closest allies.

Russia and its controversial president Vladimir Putin, who Bernie Ecclestone describes as a "super guy", are in the global headlines at present over the escalating aggression against Ukraine.

The Financial Times this week claimed Europe is considering recommending new sanctions against Russia to include the boycott of key sport events, like the inaugural grand prix at Sochi scheduled for mid October.

Daniel Johnson, the F1 correspondent for the Telegraph newspaper, believes Finn Vatanen is "testing the waters" with his comments on behalf of a more reserved Todt.

"Of course Jean knows about my comments, we spoke about it," Vatanen said. "We are friends. I think he partly shares my view.

"It is true that his hands are tied. I can say things much more openly and freely than he can."

F1 chief executive Ecclestone, who personally agreed the race deal with Putin, consistently refers to his binding contract with Sochi organizers and the fact that sport and politics should not be mixed.

Vatanen said: "It is often said that formula one should not mix politics and sport, but the Russian regime is already mixing politics and sport in a blatant way, so we have to respond.

"It is for Bernie and the owners to cancel the race."

As the current situation worsens, Putin has in the past days even threatened nuclear war as the West exerts increasing pressure.

"It is an unprecedented situation since the second world war," said Vatanen, a former rally world champion and European parliamentarian, "and we have to ask ourselves how history will remember us and what we did or did not do.

"Do we support the regime who is masterminding this bloodshed? Or do we say this is not correct?

"It would send a message of acceptance if we went to Russia. It would say we condone, effectively, maybe not explicitly, but by our actions we condone what is going on because it is used in propaganda," Vatanen concluded.

Teammate war 'valuable' for F1, Mercedes – Haug
(GMM) F1 should thank the warring Mercedes teammates for their spicy championship battle in 2014.

That is the view of Norbert Haug, the former Mercedes chief who is today removed from the stresses that his successors Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe and Niki Lauda are facing as they manage the imploding relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Indeed, Mercedes has apparently struggled to handle the fallout of the silver-clad duo's clash in Belgium two weeks ago, but Haug sees the controversy differently.

Unlike Wolff and Lauda, who heavily criticized and actually formally reprimanded Rosberg, he thinks the incident at Spa-Francorchamps was nothing out of the ordinary.

"It should not happen, but it can happen — even among teammates," Haug told Sport Bild.

"Especially when they are the only opponents for the world title and – rightly – when they are racing without team orders.

"Hamilton and Rosberg are battling it out on the track, which I see as particularly valuable for the Silver Arrows."

Mercedes' new management has regarded the Spa crash as bad for the German marque's image, but Haug thinks any damage will be quickly forgotten.

"After a clean 1-2 victory at Monza, Spa will be yesterday's news," he said.

And, anyway, he thinks that without the Hamilton-Rosberg battle for 2014 glory, "the world championship would not be even half as interesting in my opinion".

He says incidents like Spa are unavoidable when a wheel-to-wheel battle for the title is taking place.

"You don't make omelets without breaking eggs," Haug is quoted by Germany's Sky.

"I have seen it with David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen, with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

"Fighting between two teammates was not invented this year!" he exclaimed.

Haug also said that if Mercedes had decided to impose team orders after Spa, the value of championship victory at the end would have been "less than half".

According to team Niki Lauda, the idea is to get the Mercedes duo clear of any third party title rival by the Abu Dhabi finale and then release Hamilton and Rosberg to fight unfettered for the drivers' crown.

"Then, sparks can sometimes fly, because we do not care which of them is first and which is second at the end," the F1 legend told Auto Motor und Sport.

Schumacher could return home by Christmas
(GMM) Michael Schumacher could leave a rehabilitation clinic and return home by Christmas.

That is the claim of the German weekly Bunte, citing sources at the facility in Lausanne where the F1 legend is recuperating after his long coma and skiing fall last December.

The report said it is possible Schumacher, 45, could return home to his mansion on the shore of Lake Geneva by Christmas.

But the news is not all good. Bunte claims: "He (Schumacher) needs constant assistance throughout the day".

And "nobody is prepared to say how long it will be before his motor, language and memory skills are restored".

Ferrari doubts Mercedes can be caught by 2015
(GMM) Ferrari will have an all-new car for 2015 but it still might not be enough to match Mercedes, technical boss James Allison has admitted.

After the departures of team boss Stefano Domenicali and engine chief Luca Marmorini, Marco Mattiacci has pinned Ferrari's recovery hopes on Allison, the former Lotus designer.

The 2015 car, which will succeed the disappointing F14 T, will be the Briton's first full Ferrari project, and Allison reveals that it will be completely different.

He said it is simplistic to say the biggest problem with the 2014 car is the underpowered V6 engine.

"Mainly, we are behind our rivals Mercedes in terms of power, but also when it comes to aerodynamic downforce," said Allison.

"Every part of the car has to be improved so that it can become more competitive next year," he added, revealing that the 2015 machine will be different "in every area".

Allison said he is not worried the so-called engine development 'freeze' will hinder Ferrari's ability to recover, as the rules allow manufacturers to change 48 per cent of the 'power unit' for 2015.

"Our problem is not the rules," he explained, "it's the time needed to close such a big gap.

"But as I said at the start, it's not just the engine which has to improve, the chassis needs to also, as does the suspension and every part of the car.

"I don't know if we can close the gap in just one year," Allison admitted.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari's top driver who despite intense speculation has now committed to Ferrari for 2015, has a similar view.

"What's certain is that we must reduce the gap over the winter and much more than in other winters, because it's a gap of around one and a half seconds (to Mercedes)," said the Spaniard.

"I don't know if it's possible to do that in six months."

Caterham confirms Kobayashi return
(GMM) Caterham on Thursday confirmed reports Kamui Kobayashi is returning to race duty this weekend at Monza.

After the Japanese sat out Spa-Francorchamps for Andre Lotterer, it emerged this week that the reigning Le Mans winner turned down the chance to drive again in the Italian grand prix.

That is because Spanish rookie Roberto Merhi is making his F1 debut in Friday practice, and Lotterer insisted: "I am a newcomer in formula one and I need to drive."

On Thursday, Caterham confirmed that Merhi will indeed drive on Friday morning.

Reports had suggested the team elected to bring Kobayashi back on duty at Monza because Caterham has already used three of the maximum four allowed drivers per season.

This leaves the door open for Merhi to obtain his full super license this weekend and then reportedly debut in Singapore.

"I am working for Caterham F1 Team and I always respect team decisions," Kobayashi is quoted as saying in Thursday's statement.

McLaren announces $30M 2013 profit
The McLaren Group has announced an $30 million increase in pre-tax profit for 2013, as well as increased revenues of $400 million.

The Group's turnover increased from £249 million to £268 million last year, while also reporting a revenue increase of 7.5%, which it says is "significant progress" towards becoming a global high technology company which continues to invest in R&D. A press release announcing the figures on Thursday said this gave McLaren a "strong financial footing" and means it is well placed to achieve long-term growth.

Though much has been made of its lack of title sponsor this year, in 2013 McLaren enjoyed increased income from sponsorship and F1 prize money, while it continued to receive strong support from partners such as ExxonMobil, Santander, Tag Heuer and SAP. McLaren's technology projects in 2013 included supporting Team GB in its build up to the Winter Olympics and supplying electric systems to all teams in F1, NASCAR and Indycar.

McLaren Chief Executive Ron Dennis says he is pleased with the progress the Group is making financially and now wants to match it on the F1 track.

"McLaren has a long-term strategy to diversify the business by capitalizing upon our world-class expertise and technology to target a wide range of industries outside Formula 1," Dennis said. "That approach is already helping us to increase revenues and, combined with improved income from Formula 1, demonstrates that McLaren is on a solid financial footing and is well placed to achieve significant long-term growth.

"Sadly, strong financial performance during 2013 was not matched by on track success. However, McLaren has a proud and victorious record at the pinnacle of Formula 1 and I am confident that the actions we are taking will enable the team to regain competitiveness in time. Our growing revenue and robust financial position will ensure that McLaren Racing has the resources it requires to win races, while enabling us to develop and expand the entire McLaren Group as an internationally recognized technology company." ESPN

Mallya to take legal action against 'willful defaulter' tag
Declared a willful defaulter by state-owned United Bank of India, UB group Chairman Vijay Mallya on Thursday disagreed with the action of the lender and said he would pursue legal action.

"We were not given a hearing, we have not appeared before them, we disagree with their action and we shall pursue legal action," Mallya told reporters after the annual general meeting of United Breweries here.

Reiterating his intention to seek legal recourse, Mallya said: "I have great faith in the judicial system of our country and as I have said, I will pursue the legal remedies that are available to me."

On Monday United Bank of India declared Mallya and three directors of debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines, willful defaulters as the company allegedly indulged in diversion of funds by opening multiple accounts.

Kingfisher Airlines and directors declared as willful defaulters will not be able to borrow from banks in the future. They would also lose Director-level positions in companies and criminal proceeding could be initiated against them, if warranted, to recover the money.

The carrier had allegedly opened multiple current accounts leading to diversion of funds, said a bank official, adding that there is a balance of Rs 7.5 crore in other-than-the-designated current account as on date.

The Kolkata-based bank is the first PSU lender to initiate the process of declaring Vijay Mallya and three other directors of the grounded Kingfisher Airlines as willful defaulters a couple of months ago.

Other banks such as State Bank of India, IDBI Bank and Punjab National Bank have also initiated the process of declaring KFA and its directors as willful defaulters.

UBI's exposure to Kingfisher Airlines was around Rs 350 crore as part of consortium led by State Bank of India.

The consortium of 17 banks, has an outstanding debt of about Rs 6,521 crore from the now-grounded carrier and outside the consortium, the bank gave about Rs 60 crore loan for Pre-Delivery payment.

Vatanen calls for Russian GP boycott
Ari Vatanen has called for the Russian Grand Prix to be boycotted in response to the Ukraine crisis and MH17 tragedy, suggesting that current FIA President Jean Todt shares the same concerns over the race.

While Todt has echoed Bernie Ecclestone's comments that sport and politics must not mix, Vatanen, who opposed Todt during the FIA's last election process in 2009, says the Frenchman's "hands are tied".

"Of course Jean knows about my comments, we spoke about it. We are friends. I think he partly shares my view," Vatanen, now President of the FIA's Closed Road Commission, said in an interview with The Telegraph.

"It is true that his hands are tied. I can say things much more openly and freely than he can. I'm not saying he agrees with everything I say, but he has a much more reduced room for maneuver. He cannot do big moves one day to another. Any movement by people starting to talk about it and then it can spread and lead to action."

Vatanen added that F1 would be "condoning" President Vladimir Putin's activities if the race goes ahead.

"Do we support the regime who is masterminding this bloodshed? Or do we say this is not correct?" Vatanen questioned. "It would send a message of acceptance if we went to Russia. It would say we condone, effectively, maybe not explicitly, but by our actions we condone what is going on because it is used in propaganda.

"It is often said that Formula 1 should not mix politics and sport, but the Russian regime is already mixing politics and sport in a blatant way, so we have to respond. It is for Bernie and the owners to cancel the race."

Vatanen, a former member of the European Parliament, summarized: "It is an unprecedented situation since the Second World War, and we have to ask ourselves how history will remember us and what we did or did not do."

The inaugural Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in Sochi on the weekend of October 11-12.

Rosberg: Ricciardo a 'serious rival' for title
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has said Daniel Ricciardo is now a "serious rival" for the title and that he will be keeping a "close eye" on him in the remaining races.

Ricciardo took his third win of the season in Belgium last time out, capitalizing on the collision between team-mates Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton on the second lap.

While the Australian himself insisted recently he was "staying grounded" and will not get carried away with talk he has an outside chance of becoming champion, Rosberg believes he is a threat.

"Ricciardo's win in Belgium saw him close the gap to Lewis and I in the drivers' standings. He is doing a great job this season and he is a serious rival for title so we must keep a close eye on him and Red Bull in the remaining six races," said Rosberg in his column for the Daily Mail ahead of this Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

As for the race at Monza itself, the German added he will be going all out for another victory to extend his championship lead. He is currently 29 points up on Hamilton and 64 ahead of Ricciardo.

"All I can say is that I am feeling good and I am in full-on attack mode heading into this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza," he explained.

"The team is doing such an awesome job in developing our car and making it faster and faster. So every race I have the chance to be on pole position and win, which is a very special feeling."

Steiner: Ferrari deal an honor for Haas F1
Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner has said it is an "honor" for the outfit to join forces with Ferrari.

Confirmation that the American squad will use power units supplied by the Scuderia came on Wednesday, and while the "multi-year agreement" was not a surprise, given Haas became one of Ferrari's official suppliers earlier this year, the announcement is still a major boost for the fledgling team.

"These are exciting times for everyone at Haas F1 Team and we are honored to have a partner in Scuderia Ferrari supporting our efforts," Steiner confirmed.

"When it comes to Formula 1, no one matches Scuderia Ferrari's knowledge, technical expertise and sheer determination."

The squad, based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, is due to make its debut in the sport in 2016.

"We understand there is some heavy lifting ahead of us," Steiner added, "but we know that with Ferrari's technical support, we will develop a team of talented people at an exceptional pace so that we are ready to race competitively in 2016.

"We are focused on the future and look forward to what is ahead for Haas F1 Team."

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