Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Verstappen disses Mercedes for Red Bull

    Verstappen chooses Red Bull over Mercedes

  • Another Fittipaldi on path to F1
  • Lotus, Williams swapped F1 fortunes in 2014
  • 'Unlikely' Red Bull can catch Mercedes – Horner
  • Kobayashi backs sweeping changes at Caterham
  • FIA to approve Russia GP track next week
  • Montoya says F1 should copy America

Verstappen chooses Red Bull over Mercedes
(GMM) Red Bull has confirmed reports that highly-rated teenage rookie Max Verstappen has joined the energy drink company's driver development program.

Earlier, it was rumored the young Dutchman, whose meteoric rise from karting to F3 this year caught the notice of the F1 world, had signed a deal with Mercedes.

But then it emerged that Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko made a last-ditch effort to woo the son of former grand prix driver Jos Verstappen.

Responding to rumors Max might make his F1 debut for Toro Rosso next year at the tender age of 17, Verstappen snr answered: "He's already quite mature.

"We are in a good situation," he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, "but it's also tricky — what is the right decision, and also how often is a train like this going to pass by?"

Now, Red Bull has announced that Max Verstappen has "accepted" its offer to join the famous Red Bull Junior Team program "effective immediately".

He will remain in European formula 3 for now.

"It goes without saying that I'm very happy and I feel honored to be part of the Red Bull Junior Team, which has successfully brought and guided many drivers into formula one," Max said.

Another Fittipaldi on path to F1
(GMM) Max Verstappen, the son of F1 podium-sitter Jos who has joined Red Bull's famous driver program, is not the only familiar name treading a path to the grand prix grid.

Pietro Fittipaldi, 18, is the Miami-born grandson of Brazil's double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

He recently left the US for Europe to climb the single seater ladder to formula one.

"I think in two or three years, Pietro should get to formula one," 67-year-old Fittipaldi, whose brother Wilson and nephew Christian also raced in F1, said in Sao Paulo on Tuesday.

"It is very difficult, but he is well supported and very dedicated," he added.

"He is doing well this year in British Formula Renault and also went very well in Nascar," Fittipaldi is quoted by Brazil's Globo.

The report said Pietro is part of the Telmex-headed Mexican driver program that has already paved the F1 careers of Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez.

"Pietro is in a very good program," confirmed Fittipaldi, "the same as Perez and Gutierrez, which is very structured and will help Pietro to get to formula one.

"He is doing everything right to achieve this great goal," he added.

Lotus, Williams swapped F1 fortunes in 2014
(GMM) Even amid his pointless first half-season with Lotus, Pastor Maldonado has signed up with the Enstone team for 2015.

In his third consecutive campaign with Williams last year, the Grove team hit rock-bottom and Maldonado decided to take his PDVSA sponsorship to Lotus.

It was precisely at that moment that the two teams' fortunes switched around.

Venezuelan Maldonado, who picked the number 13 to race with in 2014 and beyond, does not regret the move.

"I feel better here," said the 29-year-old Lotus driver, whose new teammate Romain Grosjean has scored all of the team's 8 points so far in 2014.

"It is not that Williams was bad," Maldonado is quoted by Italy's Tuttosport, "I enjoyed the first two years very much, I learned so many things and I also got some good results.

"But last year I felt the need to change, I wanted new challenges. I saw we had no prospect of development, even though I knew that this year would not be as bad as 2013."

Maldonado has said repeatedly in 2014 that the big difference at Williams has been the switch from Renault to field-leading Mercedes power.

"In the past," he explained, "Lotus has built the best cars in F1. This year, things are not going great, even if the car is good. The difference is mainly the engines of Mercedes."

Even deputy boss Claire Williams, and new technical chief Pat Symonds, do not completely deny that.

"Obviously the Mercedes power unit has helped to drive our competitiveness this year," said Williams. "It's absolutely a factor."

Symonds, speaking to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, agrees: "The Mercedes engine has of course helped us a lot.

"But you can't forget that last year, with Renault, we had the same engine as the world champions, and we were ninth. Now we have the engine of the apparent new world champion again and we are doing much better.

"We are the second fastest Mercedes team," Symonds insisted, "and not far away from the factory team."

He says the biggest change at Williams in 2014 is "confidence".

"When I arrived," said the Briton, "there was no confidence. That is why there was all the panic.

"Someone told me last year that it made no sense to practice pitstops because the car was so bad. That (attitude) just leads to nowhere. If you look at our stops today, they are very good on average.

"Everyone believes in themselves again. There is a very different atmosphere in the team," said Symonds.

At the same time, Maldonado has confidence Lotus can also turn its fortunes around.

"Most of the problems have been down to reliability," he said.

"Sometimes we are jumping on the track just thinking about finishing and not thinking about exploring the full performance of the car which is not a great approach.

"But sometimes you need to maybe do one step back to recover and it's getting better and better.

"It's looking quite good now," Maldonado added. "It's always been a great team in the past and for sure will be one of the good ones for the future."

Lotus' deputy boss Federico Gastaldi agrees with Maldonado that the Renault engine has been a problem, but he admits it is not the only one.

"I think we're still having problems understanding the engine," he said, "but we're also having problems in Enstone matching chassis, aerodynamics and the engine.

"We're trying to improve but it is a very, very slow process."

'Unlikely' Red Bull can catch Mercedes – Horner
(GMM) Boss Christian Horner has admitted it is "unlikely" Red Bull will catch up with dominant Mercedes in 2014.

But F1's surprise on-form youngster Daniel Ricciardo, who entered the current summer break with a second win of the season, is more confident.

"When maybe some of us say it (the championship) is over, it's just purely looking at the performance of Mercedes," said the Australian.

"But (teammate) Seb is right in saying until it's mathematically over, it isn't."

Although strong throughout 2013, it wasn't until after the summer break a year ago that Red Bull – whose Sebastian Vettel then ran all the way to the finale without being beaten – really hit its utterly dominant stride.

Ricciardo is similarly confident this year.

"I feel since I entered formula one that the second part of the season has always gone better for me," he told CNN.

"So we'll see how it's going and try and get a few more wins."

Boss Horner, however, doubts Red Bull can overcome or compensate for what he describes as a 65 horse power deficit to dominant Mercedes through the summer break and the remaining eight races of 2014.

"In all honesty it's probably unlikely," he said. "If you look at the gap, it's a significant gap.

"Last year was more of a level playing field on the power unit side. But obviously with the big regulation change, Mercedes are in a position of real dominance; dominance we haven't seen for a long, long time.

"We're keeping pushing, we're keeping the hammer down and hopefully after the summer break we'll have some circuits coming up that we will be able to get even closer," Horner added.

"But I don't think you'll see a situation like we had last year."

Given its slide behind Mercedes in 2014, Red Bull is at another crossroads — its highly-rated technical director Adrian Newey, frustrated with the sport's ever-tightening rules, has decided to slip into a background role.

"It's no secret that Adrian wanted to lighten his commitment a little," Horner is quoted by Italy's Autosprint, "but it doesn't mean that we are going to look for a new technical director.

"He will still be very involved with the technical choices," Horner explained, "helping us to choose a direction in the design and development.

"We have a very strong technical team," Horner insisted. "The situation allows us to promote and develop the people who work behind Adrian and give them more responsibility.

"We knew of his (Newey's) design to slow down and we have prepared for it well, adapting to the situation in a way that will benefit everyone."

Kobayashi backs sweeping changes at Caterham
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi has backed the sweeping changes at Caterham, even though it has put his formula one future in doubt.

After founder Tony Fernandes' sudden sale and departure, the Malaysian team entered the hands of mysterious Swiss-Middle Eastern investors and new bosses Colin Kolles and Christijan Albers.

Almost immediately, 40 staff were controversially axed.

The next possibility is a change in the green-lined cockpits, with Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson adequately backed but exciting Japanese driver Kobayashi substantially unfunded.

Dutchman Albers admitted recently that he has had talks with the cream of the Red Bull junior program, Carlos Sainz Jr.

When asked about Ericsson and Kobayashi, he said: "I want to see results — that's very important for every formula one team."

The former Spyker and Minardi driver said he thinks Caterham's current duo is doing "a good job", but he also hinted that a change cannot be ruled out.

"We know we need performance and also of course with a team like Caterham we also always need a little bit of budget," said Albers.

Although perhaps the most likely driver to make way at Caterham, Kobayashi insists he backs the sweeping changes at the struggling team.

"I think this is what we needed, otherwise I think we couldn't finish the season," he said. "It was the right move.

"As you see in the news I think quite a lot of people left straight away but I think we need to keep motivated. I think if we want to survive we need to change something," Kobayashi added.

"Of course, it's the same from my side. I think I need to always drive 100 per cent, which gives motivation. Let's see what happens."

FIA to approve Russia GP track next week
(GMM) In just one week, Russia could get the final green-light for its inaugural grand prix.

Amid construction of the Sochi layout and controversy surrounding the Crimean crisis and the MH17 atrocity, the country has had only a provisional place on the 2014 schedule.

In the meantime, organizers are almost completely ready for the FIA's final circuit inspection next week.

Russian GP chief Sergei Vorobyov told the Ria Novosti news agency that the FIA delegation will carry out the inspection next Tuesday.

"As you have seen," he said, "except for the final cosmetic work – painting, cleaning, equipment installation – the circuit is ready for the grand prix," he said.

"On August 19 the FIA will come here to decide on the acceptance of the facility for formula one," Vorobyov added.

The 2014 Russian grand prix is scheduled for October 12.

Montoya says F1 should copy America
The Colombian, who won seven grands prix with Williams and McLaren between 2001 and 2006, returned to IndyCar with Penske this year after a seven-season stint in NASCAR.

While IndyCar has faced its own struggles to recapture an audience that it lost after the IRL/CART split in the mid-1990s, recent signs have been encouraging.

IndyCar's TV figures have shown significant and consistent growth this season, and the current technical package allows for excellent racing without the need for contrivances.

Are the teams holding F1 back?

The series is also fan-friendly, with drivers actively engaging with fans via social media, autograph sessions at all races, and accessible paddocks.

While Montoya believes that F1's current problems are more complicated than mere accessibility, he says that some of IndyCar's practices could serve as an example for F1 to follow.

"Number one, F1 has to change the sound," he said. "It is a really hard compromise because they all talk about saving money, but at the end of the day F1 has never been about that.

"They still spend all the money in the world. One team there could probably sponsor the whole series here.

"[But to get fans engaged,] they ought to look at IndyCar. I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after its fans.

"It's very different [for fans], just walking around seeing the cars. In the garage in NASCAR, the drivers are never there.

"The cars are there but the drivers are always in the motorhome. F1, [the paddock] is always closed. It's so complicated. There is no right answer.

"But the people that best understand it … NASCAR is the best at understanding that at the end of the day it's a show.

"Formula 1, being very European, they think it's a sport. And it is a sport. But the way it's played … the fans have to like it." Yahoo Eurosport

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