Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

09/03/14

  • Alonso going for the money-grab at Ferrari

    2016 team Haas announces name tweak

  • Force India plays down Mallya's troubles
  • Alonso denies talking with McLaren's Ron Dennis
  • Life goes on for Schumacher family
  • Briatore return would 'help new F1' – Alonso
  • Ferrari customers behind in engine payments
  • Designer spotted Ricciardo potential at Toro Rosso
  • Allison: Ferrari hoping not to embarrass themselves at home
  • Verstappen completes seat fitting at Toro Rosso New
  • Alonso wants to 'extend his contract' New
  • Vettel 'not the best driver' – Alonso New
  • Drivers back Rosberg over Hamilton clash New

2016 team Haas announces name tweak
(GMM) The plans of F1's newest team are marching on.

Although it will only debut in 2016, the American outfit Haas Formula has announced a name tweak.

The team is now called Haas F1 Team, with the name-change decision made by founder and chairman Gene Haas "to better correlate his team with motor racing's most prestigious series".

Haas, who also co-owns a leading Nascar team with Tony Stewart, has also this week launched an official website for the F1 team and social media pages.

Explaining the name-change, Haas – whose company Haas Automation already sponsors Ferrari – said: "When you hear 'F1' you know exactly what it is — a global racing series that showcases the latest technology and attracts the best talent in engineering and design."

The press release issued on Tuesday said construction of a F1 headquarters adjacent to the Nascar factory in Kannapolis, North Carolina is "scheduled to be completed in November".

Haas told Forbes recently that his interest in F1 was piqued when officials of the USF1 project approached him to get involved in the ultimately stillborn team.

"I started watching the races more out of curiosity about it," he told the F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.

"I was kind of amazed that there weren't more people trying to do it. There are so many super rich people in America I kind of thought 'why haven't any other Americans done this?'"

The next step for Haas is to announce a European base for the team, probably in England.

He said: "We are not going to be swayed by any smooth talking about dreams. This is a tough business and we know what we have got to do.

"There is a tremendous amount that we need to learn from this whole sport because we are pretty novice at it."

Force India plays down Mallya's troubles
(GMM) Force India has played down this week's alarming news from India about team supremo Vijay Mallya.

Amid the decline of his airline Kingfisher, the former billionaire was declared a 'willful defaulter' by the public sector lender the United Bank of India, meaning he will lose his director positions and be unable to borrow money.

An insider explained: "Any company in which they are directors, those companies would be affected."

And the very latest news is that India's supreme court rejected Mallya's petition challenging the 'willful defaulter' tag, causing some to wonder if the 58-year-old's entire empire could begin to crumble.

The chief of Force India's title sponsor Sahara, Subrata Roy, is currently in jail on financial charges, but a team spokesperson has played down the effect Mallya's latest troubles will have on the Silverstone based outfit.

"The team will not be affected in any way," the spokesperson told PA Sport.

Alonso denies talking with McLaren's Ron Dennis
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has denied being in contact with McLaren supremo Ron Dennis.

Dennis is making no secret of his desire to sign a driver of the Spaniard or Sebastian Vettel's caliber to spearhead the works Honda project from 2015.

The Telegraph newspaper even said Dennis, despite his spectacular falling out with Alonso in 2007, "has spoken" with the highly rated driver recently amid rumors of an audacious $32 million per-year offer to woo him from Ferrari.

But on Tuesday, Alonso played down the McLaren link by insisting it is "not my intention at the moment to move".

At the same time, Spanish reports quoted Alonso as denying he has been in contact with Dennis.

"No, he (Dennis) has not called me, it's 100 per cent not true," newspapers quoted Alonso as saying.

But he did admit that his 2014 hopes are now gone and he must look to the future for better times.

"Obviously this year, with seven races left, little will change — the hope is for next year and the future. Hopefully we can close the gap to Mercedes, who have a big advantage.

"It is true that in these years at Ferrari I did not win, but two times it went to the last race and I have won great races.

"I think they have been very good years of which I have fond memories, but in the future I definitely want to win," Alonso added.

He said: "At no time have I regretted joining Ferrari, because at the end of the day, it is the most important team.

"The Los Angeles Lakers or Real Madrid also do not win always, but to play there is important."

Finally, Alonso played down speculation Ferrari is poised to announce at Monza this weekend that former technical director Ross Brawn is rejoining the team.

"I don't think there will be any announcement, or anything to announce," he said.

"We must have confidence in (Marco) Mattiacci that he knows what decisions to make. The changes that are made are 100 per cent intended to improve the team."

Life goes on for Schumacher family
(GMM) For the Schumacher family, life goes on.

This week, a charming book penned by a young fan of Michael Schumacher hit the desk of the stricken F1 legend's wife Corinna.

Corinna replied personally to the boy: "I would like to thank you for your best wishes and your kind present, which help us to move forward in those difficult moments.

"Our Michael is a fighter and he will never give up," Mrs. Schumacher added.

Earlier, Corinna was photographed as a smiling spectator at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Reportedly still at a Swiss rehabilitation clinic after his long coma, former Ferrari and Mercedes driver Schumacher remains in the minds of many.

Former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali this week named Schumacher as the driver he had the "best relationship" with.

"He was formidable because his contribution was not limited to his exceptional talent behind the wheel," insider Leo Turrini quoted Domenicali as saying.

"In private, he could be very severe, even ruthless, but outside he was always the first to defend the team," said the Italian.

On Schumacher's health, he said he understands the family's desire for privacy.

"We are in contact and they tell me that there is small, continuous progress. I know that we all hope that this terrible waiting will end in the best way.

"Unfortunately we just have to wait," said Domenicali.

Finally, Brazil's Globo reports that Schumacher's 15-year-old son Mick has finished runner-up in a competition of the FIA-sanctioned Junior KF karting category.

To ensure a lower profile, Mick races with the surname of his mother, Betsch.

Briatore return would 'help new F1' – Alonso
(GMM) Flavio Briatore would be a good addition as formula one finds its direction for the future.

That is the claim of Fernando Alonso, the sport's highest paid and arguably most highly rated driver.

Recently, a man always closely aligned with the trajectory of Alonso's career – Briatore – was linked with a return to the sport as chairman of a new popularity working group.

It comes amid a period of introspection for F1 as it grapples with popularity at the crossover of the sport's old model with new, greener rules and the social media era.

Alonso said 2014 has been a "tough year" for him.

"First, because we (Ferrari) are not competitive," he told Sky, "and also because it is quite boring to drive the car. It is too slow and too heavy and we are not able to have the noise that we used to enjoy."

According to Italy's Tuttosport, Alonso thinks Briatore – a highly controversial figure within formula one – could help the sport at this time.

"Flavio has often had winning ideas; I think he is a brilliant person," said the Spaniard.

"He always has a very clear vision of how to solve problems. To me, he is someone who could help this sport a lot."

For others, F1 is something that is being left in its illustrious past. Jaime Alguersuari, dropped by Red Bull at a young age at the end of 2011, sees the future in the form of the new Formula E electric series.

"At the moment I don't consider formula one as a sport," he told the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.

"It has lost everything because of the engines, the tires and the performance in general.

"Driving the cars was difficult – very difficult – but today a 16-year-old can get into cars that are five or six seconds slower than they were and be competitive.

"I find it disrespectful that someone like Carlos Sainz, leading an international series like the world series that takes many years of training, is overlooked in what looks like a non-sporting decision.

"It seems that what is most important is the business and the money to be made.

"I've moved on," said Alguersuari, still just 24. "I just say, publicly and openly, that I do not want to know anything about formula one because I think what is happening is ridiculous and shameful for me and many other drivers who are at the level to be there."

Ferrari customers behind in engine payments
(GMM) Ferrari's customer teams are behind in payments to the Maranello marque.

Referring to engine customers Sauber and Marussia, team boss Marco Mattiacci is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick: "They are behind in their payments."

Expressing concern about the future of Hinwil based Sauber, correspondent Roger Benoit quoted his authoritative Italian colleague Pino Allievi as saying: "Ferrari has never dropped a long-term partner."

Both Sauber and Marussia are undoubtedly struggling financially, with Speed Week reporting rumors earlier this week that Marussia may not make it to Monza this weekend.

Paying driver Max Chilton was at the centre of a contractual kerfuffle last time out at Spa-Francorchamps, and the musical chairs is tipped to continue at the Italian grand prix.

But it emerges that Marussia's race transporters are at least en route to the Autodromo Nazionale.

Designer spotted Ricciardo potential at Toro Rosso
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo's rise from the deep midfield to title-contending prominence in F1 has been a surprise to almost everyone in the paddock.

In fact, even those who know him best – Dr Helmut Marko, Christian Horner and Adrian Newey – have said even they were shocked by the Australian's graduation from Toro Rosso nearly-man to Sebastian Vettel-beater in 2014.

But undoubtedly, sparks of a very special talent were always obvious.

Luca Furbatto, who has now left the Faenza team, worked closely with Ricciardo as he designed Toro Rosso cars until earlier this year.

He told Italy's Autosprint that as soon as the braces-wearing youngster stepped up from HRT in pre-2012 winter testing, "I was struck by the feedback he was able to give to the team".

"It was incredible how he recalled the behavior of the machine even hours later," said Furbatto. "At 300kph he had the time and the intellect to think about the management of the car, which is typical of great quality.

"The other driver (Jean-Eric Vergne) was very limited in his feedback, so Daniel was always the point of reference.

"But I have seen before that drivers able to give so much information were not always the fastest. But my doubts soon disappeared — qualifying in Bahrain in 2012 left everyone speechless," he explained.

Furbatto said Ricciardo initially had some weaknesses: the race starts, the opening laps, his management of disappointment, his entries to the pitlane.

"But in winter testing in 2013 he seemed much more determined," he revealed.

"His feedback was a little reduced but he had become very strong in prioritizing development. In the races he said things like 'Understood. No more talking from now on'," said Furbatto.

"Perhaps he had been told of the chance to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull, but what was clear is that he had matured in a hurry."

Allison: Ferrari hoping not to embarrass themselves at home
Ferrari Technical Director James Allison has said the Scuderia is hoping for a "respectable" weekend on home soil.

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen both finished in the top-ten in Belgium at the end of last month, with the latter coming home fourth, while the former finished seventh after a good four-way scrap for fifth.

Allison believes they will be similarly competitive in front of the tifosi this Sunday: "Spa and Monza, are both tracks that have characteristics that perhaps don't bring out the best in our car and so we approached Spa with a little bit of trepidation. Spa has a very high dependency on power and aerodynamics and we expected to have a hard weekend, but actually the F14 T was quite respectable and with both of our drivers we were capable of producing good results. There are differences between Spa and Monza, but overall the characteristics are such that broadly the competitiveness we saw at Spa should translate to Monza," he explained.

"We hope to again have a respectable weekend before heading on for the remainder of the year, where we believe the characteristics of the other tracks will suit us a little bit better."

"Leaving aside the ill fortune Fernando suffered on the grid at Spa, for Ferrari as a whole, Spa was probably our best performance of the season with both drivers performing strongly in the race," Allison added.

"Fernando produced his normal exemplary performance throughout the entire weekend, while Kimi in the race was strong, producing good results as well.

"We have been improving our car over the last several races and that improvement is starting to tell with both of our drivers.

"It is something as the remainder of the season plays out we hope we will be seeing again and again."

Verstappen completes seat fitting at Toro Rosso
Max Verstappen had a seat fitting with Scuderia Toro Rosso on Tuesday during a visit to the Italian team's factory in Faenza.

The 16-year-old, who will become the youngest driver in Formula 1 history when he makes his debut in Australia next year, may run in some practice sessions before the end of the current season.

"Today I had a chance to meet several team members and I did a tour of the factory and facilities," he told his personal website.

"But the most time consuming task of the day was the seat fitting. However, it is important to take enough time for molding the seat because you want it to be as comfortable as possible."

"We will perfect my new racing seat by padding it on Wednesday. After that we will discuss the plans for the next few weeks," added the Dutchman, who had a minor crash during his first public Formula 1 outing at the VKV City Racing event in Rotterdam last weekend.

Alonso wants to 'extend his contract'
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he is working on extending his Ferrari deal.

Amid growing rumors the Spaniard could switch to McLaren, he played down the speculation this week by telling Britain's Sky he has no "intention" of moving.

But that didn't convince everyone, even though Ferrari on Wednesday tweeted an image of the latest F1 Racing magazine and the words of the cover headline 'Rumors be damned'.

Some, however, insist there are performance clauses in his contract that mean Alonso, if he wanted, could walk through the exit at the end of the season.

"No, I'm not comment .. it is not true," boss Marco Mattiacci is quoted by Sky on Wednesday. "I don't like to comment on our contracts with drivers.

"They are assets."

But although some think Alonso regularly makes ambiguous comments that suggest his commitment to Ferrari might not be absolute, the Spaniard insists the opposite is in fact true.

"I am proud there are some teams that say they'd like to have me, because it means they appreciate the job I'm doing," he told Spanish reporters.

"However, on this topic, it's a year now that I've been saying I want to stay at Ferrari and extend my contract. That's my wish, I repeat it every two weeks, at the end of every race, yet it's never said, in fact there is a tendency for the opposite to be said."

Alonso added that he and Ferrari are "working on" the new deal.

"Let's see if that can happen, but for the next two years at least, there is no problem."

Vettel 'not the best driver' – Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso does not believe reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel is the best driver in formula one.

Some have been surprised this year as Vettel, despite his domination of the sport for years, has struggled to keep up with his new Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

But Spaniard Alonso on Wednesday said it has been no surprise to him.

"In my opinion," he is quoted by Italy's La Stampa, "Lewis Hamilton is the best driver.

"I don't know what problems Vettel is having this year, but I have not changed my mind about him — he is not the best.

"It is others who have to change their opinion," Alonso added.

Drivers back Rosberg over Hamilton clash
(GMM) Champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have backed Nico Rosberg amid the German's run-in with title rival and teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton accused his Mercedes colleague of having deliberately crashed into him at Spa-Francorchamps, but Spaniard Alonso thinks: "It was a racing incident.

"It's impossible that Nico from the cockpit could have been so precise with his front wing to have cut a tire of another car," the Ferrari driver and double world champion told Britain's Sky.

"You need to be in surgery at the hospital with that sort of precision.

"The bad part of the incident was for Hamilton, but it could have been the other way around — maybe Hamilton's tire resisted and Nico had to change the front wing and his race was over," he added.

Reigning quadruple world champion Vettel has the same view.

"I think it was just a normal racing incident," said the Red Bull driver, "and the discussion of intention should not arise.

"No one intentionally risks losing his wing," Vettel told Sport Bild, "and no one makes themselves the target of (the accusation of) unfair driving."

Even Nico Hulkenberg, the highly rated Force India driver, backed Rosberg's view of the incident.

"Nico did nothing wrong," he is quoted as saying. "He tried to overtake because he thought he was faster."

Hamilton and Rosberg will resume their rivalry on Thursday at Monza, after the FIA paired them together for the official press conference.

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