Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Lauda slams Williams for blotched Susie Wolff PR stunt

    Maldonado stays, Grosjean admits future 'open'

  • Alonso talks down Ferrari's 'big hope' for better 2015
  • F1 world nervous about Russian GP
  • Ecclestone plays down F1 buy-back reports
  • Mercedes 'already negotiating' with Hamilton
  • Mercedes slams 'unacceptable' Brembo failure
  • Heidfeld is dating Frentzen
  • Lauda slams Williams for fudging Susie Wolff 'PR move'
  • F1 teams eye Jos Verstappen's son – report
  • Grid drop for Hamilton after gearbox change
  • Vettel says Renault upgrades too little too late
  • FIA decides that Hamilton won’t have to start from pitlane

Maldonado stays, Grosjean admits future 'open'
(GMM) As Lotus firms up its plans for 2015, Romain Grosjean's future is looking clouded.

It was already known that, when Pastor Maldonado and his lucrative backer PDVSA switched from Williams to Lotus for the 2014 season, it was the beginning of more than a single-year deal.

"I don't want to give too much away," the Enstone team's owner Gerard Lopez said late on Saturday, "but as it's halfway through the season I can confirm 50 per cent of our driver lineup for 2015 as Pastor is with us for next year."

That is despite the fact the Venezuelan has yet to score a single point in a black and gold car, while teammate Grosjean has eight in his account.

On Maldonado, Lopez continued: "Despite the difficulties we've had so far this season, he recognizes our true potential as a team and we recognize his true potential as a driver. We will achieve great things together."

In total contrast, Grosjean's future is uncertain.

We reported recently that the Frenchman might struggle to hang onto the seat for 2015.

His manager, Eric Boullier, is now the boss at McLaren, and it is expected that the strongly Grosjean-linked Renault and Total will not be part of the Lotus package beyond this season.

"I've been here for a little bit," the 28-year-old said earlier in July, "and I know the team very well, but I want to win races as well, so things are open."

In a much more comfortable situation than Grosjean is Williams' Valtteri Bottas, who is riding a wave of form and sure to remain with the Grove team in 2015.

"He looks at the moment like he is a future world champion," Williams deputy boss Claire Williams told the Guardian.

Bottas agreed: "As a team, we are on the right road -– that's the goal of us together, to be world champion one day, and it would be really great to achieve it at Williams."

Alonso talks down Ferrari's 'big hope' for better 2015
(GMM) Fernando Alonso sounds underwhelmed, having been told of Ferrari's bold plans to push him to the very front of the grid in 2015.

As arguably the best driver in F1, Spaniard Alonso is always a centerpiece of the 'silly season', but this year there are real signs his patience with the Maranello team is finally ending.

He has been linked with a move to his former team, McLaren, who are switching to works Honda power next year with the biggest budget in its history.

But it emerged at Hockenheim that, last week, Alonso was shown Ferrari's plans for a major improvement in 2015.

"I hope the presentation I put his way impressed him, but you should ask him that!" said technical director James Allison.

Predictably, Alonso was indeed asked — and Ferrari might not like the answer.

"I've been in formula one for fourteen years," he said. "I've heard a lot of plans.

"In July and August each team is very strong, in November they're even better and by January they're dominating.

"But only in February are the facts on the table," Alonso insisted, according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Spain's Diario AS also quoted Alonso as saying at Hockenheim: "Only two or three teams can win races. You would need a crystal ball to know what will happen next year.

"What Mercedes has shown is that it can be fast and dominant in this new era of F1, while we have not worked well enough with the new rules.

"But it's not like other years where everything was more or less on the limit. I think the step between the cars of 2014 and 2015 will be much bigger than what we saw in the past.

"That is the big hope we have, but everyone in July will have the same hopes as well," said Alonso.

F1 world nervous about Russian GP
(GMM) It's being murmured rather than shouted, but the world of F1 is undoubtedly worried about the looming Russian grand prix.

The sport, scheduled to fly into Sochi for the very first time in October, has been quietly rocked by the news of the MH17 crash, after the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down by reportedly pro-Moscow rebels amid the Ukraine conflict.

"Our thoughts are with the families at this tough time," Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado is quoted by the Spanish sports daily Marca.

"It's not the time to talk about the Russian grand prix."

That is perhaps true when it comes to the public record, but behind the scenes, the issue is a major one for a global sport like formula one.

The route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur is familiar to many F1 figures, and Marca said Fernando Alonso has regularly flown with Malaysia Airlines.

Given the Crimean crisis, many F1 media regulars were already planning to skip Russia long before the Ukraine air disaster that claimed almost 300 lives.

"I decided a few months ago that I am not going to Sochi," an Italian journalist confirmed at Hockenheim.

But Caterham race driver Kamui Kobayashi insisted: "There is plenty of time before we go to Russia, and I think everything will calm down by then.

"I think it will go smoothly," said the Japanese.

Ecclestone plays down F1 buy-back reports
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has played down suggestions he is set to buy back formula one.

F1 business journalist Christian Sylt claims the sport's biggest shareholder, CVC, is already committed to selling its stake by next July.

"The last thing Donald (Mackenzie) wants to do is to get out," Ecclestone told the Sunday Telegraph, "but I think the way their company is structured eventually they have to move on."

Sylt reports that CVC's memorandum dictates a ten-year term, with three one-year extensions but only if the majority of its investors agree.

Indeed, rumors of CVC's talks with potential buyers abound in the paddock.

One of them could be Ecclestone, even though he plays down suggestions he is looking to up his 5.3 per cent stake.

"I'm not saying it won't ever happen," said the billionaire F1 supremo, "but there's no point in me doing it at the moment."

Mercedes 'already negotiating' with Hamilton
(GMM) With Nico Rosberg all signed up for the future, Mercedes' attention is now turning to the occupant of its other silver seat.

"Yes," the Brackley team's boss Toto Wolff told Kronen Zeitung, Austria's biggest newspaper.

"We are already sitting together and negotiating with Lewis Hamilton. About a multi-year contract, even," he revealed.

Wolff said Mercedes is more than happy with its current driver lineup of German Rosberg alongside Briton Hamilton.

"Lewis is a fixed part of the team," he said, "and I would hope for a long time to come."

For the moment, however, Hamilton is keeping a low profile on the subject. There are paddock rumors he might be tempted to return to McLaren, particularly if Rosberg goes on to win the number '1' for his 2015 car.

"My contract ends in a year," said Hamilton, "so I have time. I'm not thinking a great deal about it."

But even Rosberg seems happy for Hamilton to stay, even though they have clashed off the track this year as they fight for the drivers' title.

"I see no reason why it can't work as it has in the long term," he told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper ahead of the German grand prix.

"We have difficult moments but then we discuss them together and move on."

Mercedes slams 'unacceptable' Brembo failure
(GMM) Mercedes has slammed as "unacceptable" the failure of Lewis Hamilton's Brembo brand brake disc during qualifying at Hockenheim.

The big crash in Q1, leaving the Briton winded and with bruised knees, further dents Hamilton's championship charge by leaving him well down the grid.

But he will almost certainly fall to the very back at Hockenheim, because Mercedes will need to revert to the maker of Nico Rosberg's brake discs – Carbon Industries – for safety reasons ahead of the German grand prix, and therefore fall foul of 'parc ferme' rules on Hamilton's Brembo-spec car.

"It is impossible to determine in such a short time why the disc has broken," said Toto Wolff.

It is believed Mercedes is arguing Hamilton's car should be exempt from the 'parc ferme' penalty because the change is being done on safety grounds.

In fact, Hockenheim was not Mercedes' first Brembo disc failure in 2014, as it emerges Rosberg had a similar problem in the Barcelona test.

Team chairman Niki Lauda is furious.

"Brembo promised to reinforce this material but that it now happens again, is unacceptable," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"We will not use these brakes in the race," Lauda confirmed.

That is a further blow to Hamilton, with both the Briton and his teammate Rosberg confirming they choose the brand of disc at grands prix based entirely on "feel".

As is fairly standard practice at Mercedes, the Brembo discs on Hamilton's car were changed between the end of Saturday morning practice and qualifying.

"This product (Brembo) is a little more aggressive, but that is no explanation or excuse for something like this to happen," said Wolff.

Auto Motor und Sport reports that other Brembo users in F1 have also had problems in 2014, including Toro Rosso, Sauber, Marussia and Caterham.

It is understood the Italian company has recently had to change one of the suppliers of its materials.

Ferrari, however, has reportedly had no problems in 2014, having stockpiled a supply of 2013-spec Brembo discs.

No matter the reasons, Hamilton has vowed to attack on Sunday, whilst also describing his crash as "another gift" to his title-leading teammate Rosberg.

"With the pace we have, with Nico on pole and he has no one in front of him, by the third or fourth lap he will be several seconds up the road," he said.

Heidfeld is dating Frentzen
(GMM) Heidfeld is dating Frentzen.

It's a sensational headline, and nonetheless true — Sven Heidfeld, the brother of former F1 driver Nick, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen's sister Nicole-Nadine Frentzen, are an item.

"We have known each other from our childhood," 25-year-old Frentzen, whose 47-year-old brother won races for Williams and Jordan, is quoted by the Kolner Express tabloid.

"Sven was more like a big brother to me," she added, "but it sparked suddenly at one of my brother's races."

Sven Heidfeld, 35 and the younger brother of former BMW driver Nick, runs a racing school called Heidfeld Racing.

Heidfeld and Frentzen, both Germans, were F1 teammates at Sauber in 2003.

Lauda slams Williams for fudging Susie Wolff 'PR move'
(GMM) Niki Lauda has criticized Williams, in the wake of female driver Susie Wolff's Friday morning appearances at Silverstone and Hockenheim.

Wolff's Silverstone outing was short-lived due to technical trouble, but at Hockenheim the 31-year-old Scot managed more laps and eventually was just two tenths shy of Felipe Massa's best time.

According to F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Lauda, however, the British team Williams missed a trick in managing Wolff's practice sessions — the first time a woman has taken part in world championship rounds for 22 years.

"Williams unfortunately missed the chance to do global women's racing a big favor," he told the Swiss newspaper Blick at Hockenheim.

Lauda, who works closely with Wolff's husband Toto at Mercedes, said Williams should have dispensed with its usual Friday practice program in order to allow Susie to impress the world with a scintillating laptime.

"Rather than the same fuel and the same tires as Massa, she should have got soft rubber and low fuel — and then been a lot higher up.

"If you do a PR move, then do it right," said the outspoken Austrian. "But I take off my cap to Susie."

F1 teams eye Jos Verstappen's son – report
(GMM) Max Verstappen has the F1 world at his feet.

That is the view of Daniel Ricciardo, who after rising through the energy drink company's junior ranks is now consistently beating reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.

"Max won the Zandvoort Masters?" Australian Ricciardo told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

Ricciardo is referring to Max Verstappen, the increasingly highly-rated 16-year-old racing junior, and the very same F3 event that Max's father Jos won two decades earlier.

Ricciardo said he is impressed at the smooth and highly competitive transition Verstappen Jr has made from karting to single seaters.

According to De Telegraaf, the young Dutchman has caught the attention of a number of F1 teams, including Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.

Ricciardo said the world is at Verstappen's feet.

"For me, I didn't have that choice — I was approached by Red Bull in 2008, presented with a contract and I was very happy to sign it," he said.

"But if you have more options, like Max does, that's always good," the Red Bull driver added.

"Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull are top teams with big budgets. It's a difficult decision that Max and his father have to make, but in the end I don't think you can go far wrong in his situation.

"Although, from my experience, I would recommend Red Bull," Ricciardo grinned.

Grid drop for Hamilton after gearbox change
Lewis Hamilton will be hit with a five-place grid penalty for the German Grand Prix after a gearbox change.

Mercedes was forced to put a new unit in Hamilton's car after his sizeable accident at Sachs in qualifying, caused by a right-front brake failure. He was due to start 15th after Esteban Gutierrez’s penalty, but now falls to 20th.

It is not yet clear if Hamilton will line up on the grid, however, with governing body the FIA yet to announce its decision on whether he will be permitted to change his brake product without breaking parc ferme rules.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff stated in the wake of the crash that Hamilton is likely to switch from Brembo to Carbon Industrie for the race, the same company that team-mate and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg currently uses.

If the change cannot be made on safety grounds, Hamilton will be required to start the race from the pit lane.

Vettel says Renault upgrades too little too late
Sebastian Vettel says Renault's software upgrades failed to provide the boost Red Bull needed in German Grand Prix qualifying.

Asked if the new Renault software had not worked, Vettel replied: "I don't think as much as we were hoping for.

"We had an update on the car, but it didn't bring us as much as it was supposed to."

Ricciardo was more positive about Renault's upgrades, suggesting the problem was more the pace of Mercedes' improvement.

"I think we are getting a bit out of it – our speedtrap stuff is not as bad as it has been in previous races, so we are getting a bit out of it," he insisted.

"But Mercedes is still improving. They came out of the box strong but it is not like they will rest there, they will keep finding improvements, so we need to double that just to see some results really."

FIA decides that Hamilton won’t have to start from pitlane
Lewis Hamilton won’t be forced to start from the pitlane after the FIA accepted that his change of brake disc brand from Brembo to Carbon Industrie does not represent a change of car specification under parc ferme conditions.

Article 34.2 of the 2014 Sporting Regulations states: “It must be clear that any replacement part a team wishes to fit is similar in mass, inertia and function to the original. Any parts removed will be retained by the FIA."

FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer has apparently accepted that the Carbon Industrie discs are a suitable replacement for the Brembos.

However Hamilton has changed his gearbox after the accident and a five place penalty drops him from 15th to 20th.

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