Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Max Chilton had to sit out Friday morning until his ban check arrived

    Ecclestone sure about Russia, not about New York

  • Chilton fumbles as F1's next 'pay-drivers' line up
  • Villeneuve slams Verstappen debut
  • Vergne learned of 2015 axe six days late
  • Red Bull won't replace me – Newey
  • Vettel says power unit penalties 'inevitable' New
  • Lotterer 'very pleased' with opening day New
  • Chilton insists Marussia relationship not damaged (as long as the check clears) New

Ecclestone sure about Russia, not about New York
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone insists formula one is definitely going to controversial Russia — but he is much less sure about a race in New York.

After the FIA approved the Sochi circuit for its inaugural October race, F1's 'supremo' said the unstable political situation regarding Russia's Ukraine conflict and the MH17 atrocity has nothing to do with the sport.

"We have a contract," he said at Spa-Francorchamps. "Our friends there are happy with the contract. We are happy. We will be there.

"If people have arguments with Russia, maybe they have, but we haven't got any," the 83-year-old Briton insisted.

As for the on-again, off-again prospect of a New Jersey street race amid the fabled Manhattan skyline, Ecclestone was far less certain.

"I honestly don't think so," he answered when asked if F1 will soon be adding a second US destination.

"They still have the same problems they had in the beginning. Nothing has changed."

Chilton fumbles as F1's next 'pay-drivers' line up
(GMM) He didn't want to say the words, but Max Chilton insists a Marussia kerfuffle in Belgium should not be interpreted as a simple 'pay-driver' in distress.

The struggling team stood the Briton down ahead of Friday practice at Spa-Francorchamps, but then did a u-turn and reinstated him.

Marc Surer, a former driver and commentator for German television, giggled that Chilton and his sponsors must have "found a bank that was open on a Friday".

It was presumably that sort of interpretation that Chilton was trying to dismiss when speaking with reporters on Friday.

"What everyone seems to think has happened is not the case," he insisted.

When pressed for precisely what he meant, Chilton added: "I think I've gently persuaded or let you know what everyone thinks it is and that's all I can say."

According to Germany's Die Welt newspaper, though, the real reason for the Spa shenanigans was because a group of Chilton's investors were behind in payments.

It is a familiar story in formula one.

Also this weekend, Andre Lotterer displaced Caterham regular Kamui Kobayashi, and a major factor was the arrival of the Le Mans winner's sponsor Hype.

Now, the Spanish daily AS reports that Red Bull might try again to push rookie Carlos Sainz Jr into Kobayashi's car, perhaps even for Monza next month.

"Nothing is finalized," a spokesman for the Spanish youngster is quoted by El Mundo Deportivo.

And Roberto Merhi, a Spanish DTM driver, is at Spa this weekend and also linked with a 2014 Caterham drive under the new regime headed by Colin Kolles.

"Merhi, 23, is a talented driver but he also has the necessary financial support thanks to Russian businessmen", the sports newspaper revealed.

The always-blunt Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 world champion, is highly critical of the ever-powerful 'pay driver'-model in F1.

"More and more, the teams remove the great image that formula one once had," the French-Canadian is quoted by Welt newspaper at Spa.

Villeneuve slams Verstappen debut
(GMM) Jacques Villeneuve has slammed Max Verstappen's 2015 debut as "the worst thing ever for formula one".

1997 world champion Villeneuve, who raced in F1 against Dutch youngster Verstappen's father Jos, thinks Red Bull's decision to promote a 16-year-old who hasn't "paid his dues" will render the value of a race seat at the pinnacle of motor sport "meaningless".

"It will either destroy him or, even if he is successful right away, then F1 will be meaningless," the outspoken French Canadian is quoted in Belgium by the Mirror.

"What will F1 be? It will be nothing."

Villeneuve, who won the Indy 500 and America's premier open wheel series before entering F1 in 1996, also criticized the FIA for making it too easy for drivers like Verstappen to obtain their super license.

"There is something that is flawed there. Basically, it's like getting all the presents without deserving anything.

"It's the wrong way round — Caesar and Napoleon were good from the beginning but it takes time before you become an emperor," he said.

Villeneuve has been criticized himself recently for always making controversial statements, but his view on this matter was echoed by Jolyon Palmer.

23-year-old Palmer, another son of a F1 driver, is currently leading the GP2 series and he said Red Bull's signing of Verstappen is "crazy".

Others, however, are defending Red Bull's decision on the basis that formula one is now appropriate for younger and younger drivers.

Adrian Newey, who is taking a step back in F1 out of frustration at the new regulations, said he thinks the cars no longer need "super heroes" to race them.

"I think If you watch MotoGP then you certainly have that feeling, that those guys are superheroes, whereas the current crop of cars, the power-to-weight is not fantastic," he said on Friday.

"Going back to the 1300hp-in-qualifying formula one cars that were quite a bit lighter than they are now — those things, you had to bolt on some fairly special appendages to drive them.

"I think the fact that young drivers – no disrespect to them at all – that they can jump in and instantly be at the front, or competitive certainly, is an interesting one," said Newey.

A good example is Belgian GP rookie Andre Lotterer, who said he was surprised when he got behind the wheel of the Caterham on Friday.

"The grip left a negative impression," the reigning Le Mans winner admitted. "It's really low.

"In the LMP1 car you feel less power but we have a huge diffuser and very good tires and in the corners you can push harder."

F1 legend Niki Lauda, however, said F1 is simply changing, and that the "computer kid" generation is ready earlier for the big time.

"Kvyat has shown it already — a generational change is coming," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"It's also good for F1 because younger people will start to watch."

And Lauda said the Ricciardo, Kvyat and Verstappen generation is putting pressure on the old guard, like Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who earns "90 per cent more than those kids put together".

Vergne learned of 2015 axe six days late
(GMM) Max Verstappen learned of his 2015 debut long before Jean-Eric Vergne learned of his impending ousting, it has emerged.

Before his Toro Rosso race seat was announced, 16-year-old Verstappen was revealed by Red Bull as the latest member of its junior driver program on August 12.

"Part of the signing of the contract," the Dutchman told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, "was that in 2015 I will drive for Toro Rosso."

Team incumbent and Frenchman Vergne, however, said he didn't know about losing his Toro Rosso seat until six days later.

"I knew about it just before you did" on August 18, Vergne said.

Asked by France's RMC if he appreciated Red Bull's handling of the news, he answered: "I think there is no right or wrong way. And I'm strong enough to overcome this kind of stuff so there is no problem.

"It's pointless to be angry — or if I do have some anger, I will put it behind the wheel and make a show!

"I am looking at opportunities. Today I am in F1 and my place is in F1."

However, former driver and German television commentator Marc Surer doesn't agree.

"He (Vergne) had his chance. He was against Daniel Ricciardo and didn't prevail, now he is struggling with the rookie Daniil Kvyat.

"This is obviously the worst thing that can happen to you as a driver — you're in your third formula one season against a driver who last year was in GP3 and you're not really beating him," said Surer.

"Only the best are in formula one and Vergne is not among them.

"He is a good driver and as a Frenchman I could see him on the podium at Le Mans. But I think F1 is over for him."

Red Bull won't replace me – Newey
(GMM) Adrian Newey says Red Bull will not replace him as technical director when he steps down at Christmas.

Frustrated with the direction of the regulations, F1's most respected designer will begin to head Red Bull's new advanced technologies centre in 2015 rather than work full-time on F1.

"At the moment I'm still full time," he said at Spa-Francorchamps, "and will be (working) certainly over the coming months as we finalize the general layout of the (2015) car.

"It won't be until Christmas that I start to really get into new roles."

Newey also revealed that when that time comes, Red Bull will not appoint a successor.

"I think that at the track in Paul Monaghan, 'Rocky' (Guillaume Roquelin) and Simon (Rennie) we have three very able technical people and I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to take those decisions, no," he said.

Vettel says power unit penalties 'inevitable'
Sebastian Vettel says it is "inevitable" that he will pick up engine penalties during the second half of the 2014 season, following his troubles during the opening day of practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The current Formula 1 regulations restrict drivers to five power units per season, with penalties handed out if additional ones are used.

Vettel, using his fifth lemon Renault engine, missed Friday afternoon's session at Spa while Red Bull investigated a power unit issue, linked to the ignition.

The German would be hit with a 10-place grid drop if he switched the engine and, although he is hopeful that it can be salvaged, he says grid drops are now unavoidable over the seven remaining race weekends.

"Hopefully the engine is not damaged. That is why we did not run [in FP2], to check it," said Vettel.

"If it is, then we have to get another one out, not necessarily for this weekend but some weekends in the future.

"But we have to pull an extra engine anyway. It is whether we can live on six, or if we have to get another one.

"Anyway, it is inevitable for us to go through the second half of the season with penalties."

Vettel could only complete 11 laps before his technical problems struck in the first session.

Lotterer 'very pleased' with opening day
Andre Lotterer described himself as "very pleased" after making a positive start to his Formula 1 career at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, appointed in place of regular driver Kamui Kobayashi earlier this week, quickly found a rhythm in Friday's pair of 90-minute sessions, outpacing team-mate Marcus Ericsson in the morning and trailing him by just 0.043s in FP2.

"I'm very pleased with today," said Lotterer after stepping out of the car.

"This morning's first practice was a good session for me; I got used to the car quite quickly and now I just need to optimize everything in terms of driving style. It all went according to plan and I was able to get a good feel of what it's like to drive the car.

"FP2 was another good session, even though we had to stop a little bit early due to a technical problem.

"We followed the program as planned, improving while learning and trying to play with the car. We did some long runs and I'm starting to feel comfortable with everything, even though I'm still in the learning curve."

Caterham team boss Christijan Albers heaped praise on Lotterer for his early performance, explaining: "Having Andre in the car is definitely helping us. He has done an extraordinary job on his first day driving for us."

Chilton insists Marussia relationship not damaged (as long as the check clears)
Max Chilton does not think the events in the build-up to this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix will have a lasting effect on his relationship with Marussia, and insists the situation is more complicated than people think.

The team announced that Chilton had been replaced by Alexander Rossi for the race weekend on Thursday before back tracking on Friday and reinstating Chilton with the drive. The team said contractual issues were initially behind the decision to opt for Rossi, but Chilton said the reasons behind the debacle were not as straight forward as people seem to think.

"It's been a busy 24 hours, lots of things have changed and there have been lots of rumors that are not true. They are the first things people think of but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes and I'm always here to do the most I can for the team. That's why what happened yesterday was created and overnight that change was changed and I was put in the car this morning.

"Lots has gone on, I can't express what has gone on, but it's not what everyone seems to think has gone on."

Asked if it was about money, Chilton said: "That's a very easy way to come up with an idea. But what I did yesterday and the reason I was out of a drive yesterday was, I like to believe, due to a decision between both of us, and that got changed overnight. I'm not going to start getting into the details."

However, Chilton said there is no bad feeling between him and the team and that he does not expect a similar issue to arise again this season. He is also confident it will not impact on his negotiations about staying at the team longer term.

"No, it's not had any effect. We're trying to build the team as much as we can, and next year if everything comes together then it should be a fantastic year."

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