Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Hamilton always trying to play mind games on Rosberg

    Mind games 'important' in Mercedes title battle

  • Mercedes 'still fast' even without Fric
  • Button: Car no different without FRIC
  • Russia GP plays down plane crash doubts
  • Empty track leaves F1 at 'five minutes to 12' – Lauda
  • 2015 Williams seat 'not realistic' – Wolff
  • Rosberg admits 'difficult day' for Mercedes
  • Ricciardo: Tires and weather to define race
  • Massa wary of race day rain threat

Mind games 'important' in Mercedes title battle
(GMM) It was, of course, unnecessary for audacious competitor Fernando Alonso to tell reporters at Hockenheim he thinks mind games are "very important" in formula one.

But they might be even more important in 2014, "because it is a very close fight".

The Spaniard is referring to the intra-team battle between his old McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton, and championship leader Nico Rosberg, who are driving dominant Mercedes towards a certain drivers' title win.

Indeed, the identity of the silver-clad champion is still very much up for grabs.

So while the points are won on-track, crucial psychological gains can also be scored away from the asphalt.

That was clear even in Friday practice at Hockenheim, when Rosberg admitted his frustration with tactics employed by Hamilton.

The German's brakes began to catch fire in the pitlane, as he waited for Hamilton's sister car to be serviced.

"My dear teammate decided to box without any warning," Rosberg said, "so that put us all into a bit of a mess."

It is just the tip of the iceberg. Hamilton threw a tantrum earlier this year in Monaco, and then 'joked' ahead of the German grand prix that Monaco-domiciled Rosberg, the son of a Finn, is not even be a real German.

Hamilton has also said he is "hungrier" for victory than Rosberg, due to his modest upbringing in comparison to the trappings of being the son of a wealthy world champion.

"Yes, I was very fortunate growing up like I did," Rosberg told F1's official website at Hockenheim, "but don't forget Lewis was a McLaren driver from the age of 12. That is quite something!"

Rosberg, meanwhile, got married last weekend but failed to invite Hamilton, who lives in the same apartment building in Monaco.

The German daily Bild quotes Hamilton as saying ahead of the German grand prix: "There won't be any wedding presents on the track from me."

Mercedes 'still fast' even without Fric
(GMM) Even with no car running the technology at Hockenheim, 'Fric' was the buzzword at the scene of the German grand prix.

Some see the end of the 'front and rear interconnected' suspension systems as a chance for dominant Mercedes' rivals to close the gap.

Indeed, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo looked closer than ever to the pace on Friday.

"It seems to be one of the smallest gaps in a while," the Australian is quoted by Spain's Marca sports newspaper.

But at the end of the day, complex suspension is not the only secret to the silver team's success, as confirmed by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

"A Marussia is not going to be on pole," he smiled. "That's for sure."

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg agreed: "It seems that we are still fast, which is the most important thing."

The Brackley based team is undoubtedly unhappy, however, that what is effectively a mid-season 'ban' has fallen on a crucial piece of its 2014 package.

But Ferrari technical director James Allison made clear he supports the removal of Fric.

The Maranello based team is fighting hard to convince Fernando Alonso to stick with Ferrari rather than look around for a new team.

It is rumored at Hockenheim that, last week, the Spaniard was shown the plan for a major improvement in 2015, including a bigger turbo unit for the underpowered V6 engine.

"Kimi (Raikkonen) is quite new to our team," said Allison, "Fernando has had some years with Ferrari but has not yet achieved the goals he wanted.

"I hope the presentation I put his way impressed him, but you should ask him that!" he added.

Button: Car no different without FRIC
Jenson Button is confident that McLaren will cope well after the removal of front-and-rear-interconnected suspension, explaining that his car feels exactly the same without it.

The former World Champion ended the opening day of practice for the German Grand Prix in seventh position, two places behind rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

"The car didn't feel any different without our FRIC system – it wouldn't really make a massive difference around here," said Button.

Magnussen, who successfully trialed a new rear wing that is expected to be used on both McLarens for the rest of the weekend, was also optimistic.

"Without FRIC, our car still feels really good – which is a positive," Magnussen commented.

"I don't know about any of the other drivers, but I think we're pretty happy with the car at the moment."

The pair admitted, however, that managing Pirelli's Super Soft and Soft tires is proving to be a major challenge amid the sweltering Hockenheim heat.

"Looking at the timesheets, you'd say we look quite good, but we're finding it a little bit tougher over the long-runs," said Button.

"I think we're overheating the tires under traction. It's so difficult to manage the tires in these temperatures, and it's especially hard to get the Super Soft tire working correctly without overheating it."

Magnussen added: "The temperatures are very high, so the biggest challenge is to make the tires work.

"It's going to be tricky to understand, especially if the weather changes for Sunday, when it could be a bit cooler. But it's the same for everyone."

Russia GP plays down plane crash doubts
(GMM) Organizers of the Russian grand prix have responded swiftly to renewed doubts about October's inaugural Sochi race.

The Crimean crisis had already created uncertainty about the viability of a global sport like F1 visiting Russia in 2014, particularly with controversial president Vladimir Putin so involved in the Sochi project.

The Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster is now piling even more pressure on Russia ahead of the grand prix, prompting organizers to react to media reports on Friday.

The Times correspondent Kevin Eason, for one, said F1 is facing a potential "public relations fiasco", with Putin's planned visit to the race maybe "as ugly as the infamous Bahrain grand prix of 2012".

According to the French-language La Presse, Sochi promoters said "all preparations are continuing" at Sochi and "deadlines will be met".

The report also quoted the organizers as saying the Russian grand prix will be "welcoming to everyone".

Empty track leaves F1 at 'five minutes to 12' – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda wants formula one to think urgently about what is turning off the fans in 2014.

Big crowds were buzzing in Austria and Silverstone recently, but it was impossible not to notice some almost completely empty grandstands at Hockenheim on Friday.

The sport's reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was born just 40 kilometers away, while another German is leading this year's title in a dominant Mercedes, within memory of the heady Michael Schumacher mania.

"It's not satisfying," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had to admit on Friday.

"We have to analyze the phenomenon. If the weekend continues like it does now, we need to think about it," he said.

Italy's Autosprint quoted a F1 source as explaining that the issue this weekend is that the German public is at saturation point after world cup euphoria.

But Mercedes' F1 chairman, Niki Lauda, has another theory.

"Formula one is seeing a serious cultural change," he told Die Welt newspaper.

"The audience wants to watch sport in a different way than before, due to the rapid growth of the new means of communication.

"It is logical that the young people of today have other priorities. Everything in the world is changing, but only formula one is staying where it was," said Lauda.

The F1 legend, therefore, thinks that one big problem is too many and complex rules, but also the fact that Bernie Ecclestone is steadfastly sticking to the old TV broadcast model.

"Young people do not want to stay at home on Sunday when the sun is shining to sit in the lounge with their father for two hours.

"The problem is that today, there is no alternative. You can't just sit on the beach and watch the race highlights on your smartphone," he said.

Lauda also said F1 has simply lost some of its appeal on the human level.

"We have a generation of drivers that, if they were not wearing their racing overalls, you would simply walk past some of them and not notice," he said, referring to the general lack of "charisma" compared to the past.

"The 'formula one system' is to supervise, monitor, regulate. But we must again have the drivers, not the bureaucrats, in the foreground.

"If we continue like this, no one will be bothered about formula one anymore. It's five minutes to twelve," Lauda warned.

2015 Williams seat 'not realistic' – Wolff
(GMM) Susie Wolff admits expecting to land a race seat for 2015 is "not realistic".

After breaking down at Silverstone two weeks ago, the 31-year-old Scot enjoyed a bit more track time ahead of the German grand prix on Friday at the wheel of Valtteri Bottas' Williams.

Even she does not deny the PR factor in her two race weekend appearances this year, nor the fact that her husband – Williams co-owner and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff – has helped her on her way.

Even so, Wolff was on the pace at Hockenheim, lapping just two tenths off Felipe Massa's best time.

But she will not be reappearing on any other Friday mornings in 2014, the Grove based team has confirmed.

So the "million dollar question" – as Wolff herself puts it – is what comes next for potentially F1's first female race driver for more than two decades?

She admits a 2015 seat with Williams is a long shot.

"Given the performances of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas," fluent German speaker Wolff is quoted by the Austrian press agency APA, "that is not realistic."

Rosberg admits 'difficult day' for Mercedes
Nico Rosberg has conceded that Mercedes suffered a "difficult" opening day of practice for the German Grand Prix, despite the championship leaders finishing atop the timesheets in both sessions.

Rosberg, who set the fastest time in the first 90-minute session, finished the day in second place, 0.024s down on team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

"It was a difficult day for us, because we had to work on some of the new settings as the car was running without the FRIC [front-and-rear-interconnected Suspension] system," he said.

"But it worked out quite well even in difficult conditions. It was very hot outside and the Soft tires don't last that long here, so this will be tricky for the race."

Hamilton added that, while the Mercedes W05 is still fun to drive, it is not as easy as at recent races.

"It was quite difficult to find the balance with the track being so hot and it is a tricky circuit to drive in general," he said.

"The car is a bit different now as everyone made some set-up changes in a different direction to what we've had in the past, but it's still fun to drive.

"As the temperatures were so high, it was difficult for the tires and we're going to need to manage that carefully when we get to the race."

Ricciardo: Tires and weather to define race
Daniel Ricciardo reckons Sunday's German Grand Prix will be "defined" by tire management if the hot practice temperatures continue into the weekend.

Hockenheim experienced air and track highs of 33°C and track at 58°C during Friday's action, adding to the challenge of the Super Soft and Soft tire allocation.

"I think tires and weather will define the race on Sunday," said Red Bull driver Ricciardo, who ended the day third fastest and only one tenth of a second behind Lewis Hamilton's pace-setting Mercedes.

He added: "We were happy with our progress and it seems to be one of the closer gaps for a while, but it's tomorrow when we'll see how close we really are.

"I think we had a good car today and we extracted pretty much everything we could out of the practice. Hopefully we can have more of a fight with the leaders this weekend."

Sebastian Vettel experienced a more challenging day en route to eighth position, but the reigning World Champion is confident of making overnight gains.

"I think we can improve from there for tomorrow," explained Vettel.

"I don't think not having the FRIC suspension on the car made too much difference to us today, although I haven't had a proper look at the other cars yet.

"I think it will be fairly close between the cars this weekend."

Massa wary of race day rain threat
Felipe Massa says he will take into account the race day rain threat when it comes to setting up his car for the remainder of the German Grand Prix weekend.

The opening practice day of practice at Hockenheim took place amid scorching temperatures, with the ambient gauge rising to 33°C and the track to 58°C in the afternoon.

But while similar conditions are expected for final practice and qualifying, current Sunday forecasts are predicting showers.

"We will have to be cautious about the rain on Sunday," said Massa, who finished sixth on the combined timesheets.

"We will be thinking ahead with a view to prepare the car for that."

Reflecting on his day behind the wheel, Massa says he is confident that Williams has adapted well to life without front-and-rear-interconnected suspension (FRIC).

"We have done a lot of work on the set-up, especially after the suspension changes we have had to make," he commented.

"I hope we can carry on the improvements throughout the weekend. We made a good step up between the first and second sessions."

In the sister FW36, Valtteri Bottas wound up 10th, after giving his car to Susie Wolff for the first session.

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