Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Lotus may get the powerful Mercedes engine next year assuming they are not belly-up and out of business

    Drivers back teen rookie Verstappen

  • Lotterer 'not dreaming' about permanent F1 switch
  • Lotus close to Mercedes engine deal – Wolff
  • Vettel close to taking sixth-engine grid penalty
  • 'Too old' Vergne on quest for new F1 team
  • Alonso reveals 'intention' to stay at Ferrari
  • Hamilton, Rosberg disagree over need for talks
  • Bank 'not closed' to higher Ecclestone settlement
  • Ecclestone: No issue with Russia New

Drivers back teen rookie Verstappen
(GMM) As F1 woke from its summer slumber, the big talking point at Spa was 16-year-old Jos Verstappen.

"At least Red Bull's marketing is working well because almost all the questions are about that," smiled Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa is quoted by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: "First, it's good that there are teams interested in talented drivers instead of just the money they bring.

"Max is a little on the young side but we will have to see how it turns out," the Brazilian added.

Massa's opinion was fairly widespread up and down the paddock — history-making 2015 rookie Verstappen is extremely young, but he seems to have earned his place on the grid and should grab the opportunity with both hands.

"All the journalists are always asking, 'Is it only money that can get you into the sport?'" said Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. "It's great to see if you have the talent and deserve it."

Alonso said: "Age is just what is on your passport. Some are ready at 17, some are not ready at 29."

Jenson Button, F1's most experienced driver, on Thursday recalled being phoned more than 14 years ago by Sir Frank Williams, asking him if he was ready for F1.

He was 19.

"I said no initially," said the Briton. Most F1 drivers asked on Thursday agreed with Button's assessment.

Lewis Hamilton said he pushed for an early debut long before his actual first race in 2007, but was rebuked by McLaren's chiefs and also his father.

"When I did arrive, I was ready and that was why I had success," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

"But each driver has a different path — Kimi (Raikkonen) for example did not have much experience."

Raikkonen, whose 2001 debut was highly controversial, said at Spa: "I did well. Time will tell how he will do.

"The sport is more straightforward now than in the past, so I don't think he will have problems and I hope he does well."

Adrian Sutil also said Verstappen is right to grab his chance.

"It might be the only one you get. I would probably do the same if I got the call and I was 17 or 18."

Alonso, though, has made a point over the last few days of hinting Red Bull should have promoted his countryman Carlos Sainz Jr rather than the younger and less experienced Verstappen.

"It does appear that Carlos at 19 is higher, he is the leader of the World Series and has everything it takes to be a great driver," said the Spaniard.

"I'm sure he will be in F1 sooner or later so I'm not worried about that."

Former F1 team owner and boss Gian Carlo Minardi thinks so too.

"This move has surprised me," he is quoted by El Confidencial, "because it causes problems for Carlos Sainz Jr who has been part of the Red Bull family for years.

"For this reason I could see Toro Rosso (in 2015) with Sainz Jr and Kvyat at Red Bull, taking the place of Sebastian Vettel.

"Do not forget with have a very determined Honda fighting for a top driver, and Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel are all unhappy with their situations. We could be close to many changes with a domino effect," added Minardi.

Lotterer 'not dreaming' about permanent F1 switch
(GMM) Next to the Max Verstappen saga, it was Andre Lotterer's shock debut that was creating the most waves in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock.

DPA news agency said there were more journalists at the Lotterer media interviews on Thursday than there were to hear reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel's thoughts.

"Andre absolutely deserves it, even if he is not sitting in the best car," Vettel admitted. "In my karting days he was one of my idols."

Officially, the 32-year-old reigning Le Mans winner's outing for Caterham – as confirmed by manager Werner Heinz – is a "one time thing".

According to Germany's Sport Bild, it is being facilitated by former grand prix driver Bertrand Gachot, whose energy drink company Hype is sponsoring him.

"Actually Gachot didn't want Hype in formula one, but the idea of having Andre in Belgium was too good," Heinz smiled.

The big rumor now is that Lotterer, also a star of the premier Japanese open wheeler series Super Formula, could return to the green car at Suzuka.

"I accepted Caterham's offer because I have nothing to lose," said the Belgian-raised German, who is also under contract to Audi's works Le Mans squad.

He said Audi had no problem with releasing him for a weekend that did not clash with his official duties.

"Audi came very quickly and are very happy for me," said Lotterer. "In Japan they (Team Petronas TOM's) were not so happy, because I have to miss the race in Motegi in order to be here.

"But just because I am here does not mean that I am starting to dream about formula one," he told Speed Week. "I will not leave Audi — I'm not crazy."

Lotus close to Mercedes engine deal – Wolff
(GMM) Mercedes' Toto Wolff has admitted Lotus is close to securing F1's field-leading V6 engine for the 2015 season.

Enstone based Lotus has struggled with Renault power this year and it is an open paddock secret that a deal with Mercedes has essentially been struck.

When asked about Lotus' expected Mercedes tie-up, with current customer McLaren switching to Honda, Wolff told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "At the moment everything is going in that direction."

It is believed dissatisfied Lotus driver Romain Grosjean is simply waiting for the Mercedes announcement before re-committing for 2015.

The Frenchman told reporters in the Spa paddock that "everything is open" regarding his future.

But amid rumors he is just waiting for the Mercedes deal, Grosjean said in the FIA press conference: "The idea is to prepare the future as good as it can be for Lotus.

"They have been designing wonderful cars in the last two to four years and I don't see reason that it's not the case again in the future."

Vettel close to taking sixth-engine grid penalty
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's season could be set to go from bad to worse.

The reigning world champion smiled meekly at Spa-Francorchamps when he responded to boss Christian Horner's recent claim that the German is 'tired' in 2014 after consecutive title campaigns.

"Not exactly a compliment!" Vettel told German reporters.

But he also said directly comparing his results this year to new Red Bull sensation Daniel Ricciardo is "unfair", given his run of poor reliability.

Indeed, with each driver only allowed to run five engines all season, Vettel's fifth Renault V6 is to be fitted to his car at Spa-Francorchamps.

"It was always clear that it would catch up with me sooner or later," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

More problems could mean that at qualifying-crucial races like Singapore, a ten-place grid penalty for an unscheduled engine change will be highly costly.

So might Red Bull opt to voluntarily install Vettel's sixth engine at Monza, where grid position is not so important?

"We need to examine our options for Singapore and Japan, as we definitely don't want to go ten places back there," he admitted.

Asked about voluntarily taking a penalty at Monza, Vettel added: "That is hypothetical, but we could most likely live with a penalty."

'Too old' Vergne on quest for new F1 team
(GMM) Jean-Eric Vergne says he understands why Toro Rosso has dropped him for 2015 in favor of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen.

The Frenchman said at Spa-Francorchamps that he learned of Red Bull's decision only hours before the rest of the world did.

"I have only one thing to say," he is quoted by RMC Sport at Spa-Francorchamps. "I will always be grateful for what Red Bull did for me.

"We can't forget that they gave me the same chance three years ago that they are giving Verstappen now.

"So I totally understand the decision. Toro Rosso is a team for young drivers, and I am apparently too old," laughed the 24-year-old.

"Maybe I should shave more often to look younger!"

Vergne said he is determined to stay in formula one, and will use the remaining eight races of 2014 to prove he deserves to.

"It will not change the way I drive," he promised.

"I think there will be more eyes on me now because this Toro Rosso label will be gone from my head and I'll be of interest to others that maybe didn't look at me before.

"It is in difficult times that you can show your best. I have a positive mindset."

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said on Thursday that he will "pray to Jesus Christ" that Vergne's car is reliable for the rest of 2014 so that he can prove what he can do.

Asked if Red Bull will actively help him find a new seat, Vergne said: "This is a discussion I am having now.

"Many people have called me to help me but I am convinced that the best help will be for me to get results," he added, admitting he has already had "a little bit" of contact with other teams.

Alonso reveals 'intention' to stay at Ferrari
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says it is his "intention" to extend his stay at Ferrari beyond his current contract.

Although reportedly frustrated with the performance of his red car, the Spaniard is scheduled to stay at Maranello for two more years.

He has been linked with a return to McLaren for the British team's works Honda foray beginning next year, but rumors have also hinted at a staggering nine-digit sum for a new Ferrari deal beyond 2016.

"I have a two year contract and so I have no hurry to sign, even if that is my intention," Alonso said at Spa-Francorchamps, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The question is why there are these exaggerated and out-of-context informations out there to damage my image," he added, "but it is not important."

It was not clear that he was pointing the finger at Ferrari, but in Belgium on Thursday he did question boss Marco Mattiacci's assertion that the team is plotting a course back to the top by creating a culture more willing to take risks.

"For years I hear that we have to take more risks," Alonso is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

"At the end of 2011 I heard these messages, and in 2012 we introduced the pullrod suspension at the front.

"But that's not the point," he insisted. "The point is to make sure that everything works together, improving not only the car but also the factory and the facilities."

Meanwhile, Mercedes' Toto Wolff was asked by La Gazzetta about the reports linking Alonso with a new EUR 100 million Ferrari deal.

"Whether the number is true or not has nothing to do with the current market," the German answered.

"There are many young drivers, like Ricciardo and Bottas and Kvyat, who drive for one to two million. I am convinced that driver salaries are dropping."

Hamilton, Rosberg disagree over need for talks
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg emerged from F1's summer slumber disagreeing about how to tackle their rivalry over the remaining eight races of 2014.

Before the holidays began, the title-battling teammates' tenuous relationship was stretched even thinner when Hamilton refused to obey a team order in Hungary.

Championship leader Rosberg, probably referring not only to Hamilton's refusal but also Mercedes' reaction, admitted on Thursday that the Budapest situation had been a "mess".

The German was saying little more than that.

Filling in the blanks, Hamilton told reporters: "He (Rosberg) has asked the team to sit down.

"He wants to discuss it. I on the other hand think it's in the past — it's done and dusted."

But the Briton confessed that, when he heard the call to let Rosberg past on a different strategy in Hungary, he wondered if Mercedes had decided to put its eggs in the Rosberg basket.

"Ultimately the team wants to win," Hamilton told F1's official website.

"Sometimes you are in a situation where you have to make a decision — let's put all our eggs in one basket, because that gets us the best result.

"In that moment it wasn't easy and for sure I left there (Hungary) thinking," he admitted. "I was uneasy about it."

Hamilton said the situation is clearer now and if boss Paddy Lowe issued a clear team order this weekend at Spa, it would be "down a gear and let him go!"

On the other hand, his intentions for Sunday and beyond are clear.

"I want to win the championship through my ability and fair opportunity," said Hamilton. "I sure don't want to finish second and be known as a nice guy."

Bank 'not closed' to higher Ecclestone settlement
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone looks set for new settlement talks.

After he ended his criminal troubles in Germany recently with a controversial $100 million payment, the F1 supremo's legal troubles nonetheless went on when the Munich bank BayernLB rejected his EUR 25 million settlement offer.

But BayernLB chief executive Johannes-Joerg Riegler on Thursday admitted that if "the overall package is right, we wouldn't be closed to it (a settlement)".

However, having lost a recent civil suit also over the Gerhard Gribkowsky affair, another former shareholder, Constantin Medien, is also fighting on.

"Constantin will pursue every possible legal remedy it has, both in the UK and in Germany, against those responsible for the losses it sustained," lawyer Keith Oliver told the Guardian.

But with the trial that could have seen him sacked and jailed definitively over, 83-year-old Ecclestone's mind is firmly back on formula one.

He is busy putting together the sport's 2015 calendar, which will not feature the return of an Indian grand prix.

"We are looking at 2016 now and hopefully the tax issues in India will also be sorted out by then," Ecclestone told the Indian news agency PTI on Thursday.

German bank BayernLB on Thursday signaled it was "open to a compromise to end a legal fight" with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone relating to his involvement in the '06 sale of its stake in the motor racing business, according to Andreas Kroener of REUTERS. BayernLB CEO Johannes-Joerg Riegler indicated a deal was "still possible after the lender rejected" a $33.2M settlement offer earlier this month.

Riegler: "If the overall package is right, we wouldn't be closed to it." Financial sources indicated that BayernLB had originally demanded up to $400M from Ecclestone. But during a court case against him over allegations he paid a $44M bribe to a former German banker to "facilitate the sale of BayernLB's stake, the public prosecutor and several witnesses said the bank had got a good price." Riegler said he was "unsure how BayernLB's dispute with Ecclestone would develop." Riegler: "It is still open whether it will come to a settlement or we will have to sue." REUTERS

Ecclestone: No issue with Russia
Earlier this week FIA race director Charlie Whiting gave the Sochi Autodrom circuit the green light to stage the inaugural event that runs from October 10-12.

There have, however, been calls for F1 to boycott Russia in light of the ongoing conflict in Crimea between pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine.

Sanctions were imposed against Russia by Western allies, with Russia retaliating by banning food imports from the West.

Politicians have been looking to F1 to make a stand against Russia, but the sport has long maintained it does not involve itself in politics.

On his return to the F1 paddock on Friday for the first time since the resolution of his trial in Munich earlier this month, supremo Ecclestone made clear there would be no pull out.

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