Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

07/16/14

  • The end for Hockenheim?

    Weekend could be last blast at 'new' Hockenheim

  • Hamilton's comments on Rosberg 'a joke' – Wolff
  • Van der Garde plays down Sauber race seat rumors
  • Mercedes re-signs Rosberg
  • Rosberg's new contract worth EUR 55m – report
  • Rossi gets axed by worst team in F1, best thing that ever happened to him New
  • Smooth sailor Rosberg feels sorry for Vettel New
  • Ecclestone 'upset' with witness on Wednesday New
  • Teams could seek Fric clarification – Force India New

Weekend could be last blast at 'new' Hockenheim
(GMM) The "phones have been running hot" ahead of the German grand prix, according to Hockenheim boss Georg Seiler.

That is because, before Germany's shocking 7-1 victory over Brazil in the recent world cup semi-final, the circuit was offering a bigger ticket discount every time the national team scored a goal.

"You can't even imagine it," Seiler smiled, "but I was pleased with every goal anyway.

"It's nice when we can do something good for the formula one fans," he told SID news agency.

Seiler said he is expecting a crowd of about 55,000 on Sunday.

It is F1's first visit to the Hockenheim since 2012, as per the alternating scheme with the Nurburgring.

But it might be one of the last at Hockenheim, after Bernie Ecclestone revealed he has been negotiating exclusively with the Nurburgring regarding 2015 and beyond.

An earlier-furious Seiler says he now has "nothing new" to report about that, except to reveal that he will have "confidential discussions" with the F1 supremo this weekend.

For some, however, Hockenheim would be no great loss to F1, as the once unique and terrifyingly fast layout was made much more conventional with an upgrade more than a decade ago.

"It seems like a different level of craziness compared with today," said grand prix veteran Jenson Button, "but it was a lot of fun.

"The re-designed circuit could never be as mighty as the old Hockenheim, but it's a fun little track, and it's been purposely designed to encourage racing."

The man tasked with modernizing Hockenheim was the well-known F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke, who originally wanted to "keep as much as possible" of the old track's unique charm.

"At that time the restrictions and possibilities the site offered were not clear however and the idea eventually proved unfeasible," he told F1's official website.

Hamilton's comments on Rosberg 'a joke' – Wolff
(GMM) Boss Toto Wolff has played down a spat between Mercedes' race drivers over championship leader Nico Rosberg's nationality.

Recently at Silverstone, Briton Lewis Hamilton thrilled his fans with a popular home victory, closing the championship gap to just 4 points due to teammate Rosberg's gearbox breakdown.

Contemplating the next race at Hockenheim, Hamilton said the German grand prix is "not really his home race", as Rosberg's father is Finnish and he has spent most of his life living in Monaco.

Rosberg, who has since been posting Germany-themed photos on Twitter and Facebook to mark the world cup and will wear a special helmet this weekend, hit back that he considers himself "100 per cent German".

Mercedes boss Wolff, however, said the saga triggered by Hamilton's comments has been overblown.

"It was meant as a joke," he said during an interview with the German news agency DPA.

"It (Hamilton's comments) was not reproduced in the way that he intended it. But they are fighting each other for the world championship, so there are bound to be situations that are less spectacular in reality than they are presented to the public," Wolff added.

Asked if he was surprised by the reaction to Hamilton's comments, the German answered: "Formula one has an incredibly high media presence, and so if something sounds controversial then this effect is only multiplied.

"Then there can be a momentum that is impossible to stop.

"For us, the important that was to discuss this internally in a very timely and transparent way. In this case it was resolved quickly," said Wolff.

Until Silverstone, German Rosberg appeared to have regained the upper hand in the title scrap, apparently with a clear emotional and psychological edge over Hamilton.

But Hamilton's British grand prix win has now closed the gap to within four points.

"It's almost a fresh start heading into the second half of the season and it's going to be a really close battle between us," the British driver said on Tuesday.

Wolff also denied that Rosberg still has the psychological edge.

"Both of them are incredibly strong mentally," he insisted.

"Every time we talk about one of them having momentum on his side, it flips around to the other one again," Wolff explained. "So it's difficult to see any pattern."

Van der Garde plays down Sauber race seat rumors
(GMM) Giedo van der Garde has played down rumors linking him with a race seat at Sauber.

The 29-year-old Dutchman is currently the Swiss team's reserve driver, having lost his Caterham race seat at the end of last year.

He will drive the C33 at Hockenheim on Friday morning.

But there have been paddock rumors in recent weeks about struggling Sauber's existing 2014 race lineup, comprising Adrian Sutil alongside Mexican Esteban Gutierrez.

Reports have said van der Garde's sponsors, including the fashion label McGregor, are offering "many millions" to Sauber if he is promoted to the race seat.

De Telegraaf newspaper quotes van der Garde as saying: "I'm just focusing entirely on the first free practice on Friday."

Van der Garde, who is married to billionaire backer Marcel Boekhoorn's daughter Denise, added that he is also ready should "the team have other things for me to do".

Mercedes re-signs Rosberg
The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team is delighted to announce that it signed a multi-year contract extension with Nico Rosberg on 14 July 2014.

Nico joined the team when the Silver Arrows returned to the sport in 2010 and is currently in his fifth season with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

Since then Nico has taken six victories, 17 podium finishes and eight pole positions with the Silver Arrows since 2010. He currently leads the Formula One Drivers' World Championship by four points.

Nico Rosberg: "I am very proud to drive the Formula One Silver Arrow of the modern era. As a German, the heritage of Mercedes-Benz is very special for me, and I am proud to be able to represent the best car brand around the world. It has been a difficult road to get to where we are now – but everybody kept believing and, thanks to the fantastic support from Mercedes-Benz, we are now leading the way in F1. There has been big progress during the past year, building up our structure, management and capability for the future. We have an awesome team and I am confident that we have the right people in place at every level. I'm looking forward to the next years together, when we will keep pushing to win even more races – and, hopefully, championships."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "Nico has been part of the Silver Arrows project since day one and he has a big stake in the development of the team since 2010. His speed, commitment and focus have all helped to give clear direction and to drive the team forward. With his performances in 2014, Nico has demonstrated to the outside world what we knew already in the team: that he is one of the very top drivers in Formula One. This new contract brings us important stability and continuity for the future and I am delighted to be able to make the announcement in time for the home race of Mercedes-Benz and Nico in Hockenheim."

Rosberg's new contract worth EUR 55m – report
(GMM) Mercedes announced on Wednesday that Nico Rosberg is staying put for several more years.

Rumors of the German's new deal emerged some time ago, but it has only now been confirmed that the current championship leader has signed a "multi-year contract extension".

"I'm looking forward to the next years together, when we will keep pushing to win even more races — and, hopefully, championships," said the 29-year-old, who joined Mercedes as Michael Schumacher's teammate in 2010.

Boss Toto Wolff added: "Nico has been part of the Silver Arrows project since day one and he has a big stake in the development of the team since 2010."

The major German daily Bild claims that Rosberg's new deal, announced hot on the heels of his marriage to long-time girlfriend Vivian, is for three more years, and worth EUR 55 million in total.

"The contract was signed on Monday," the report claimed, "and includes further options."

The best thing that ever happened to the talented Alexander Rossi is to get away from the back-of-the-grid loser Caterham team

Rossi gets axed by worst team in F1, best thing that ever happened to him
(GMM) American F1 hopeful Alexander Rossi, who hitched his wagon to the worst team in F1, is just one of many departures at Caterham this week.

22-year-old Californian Rossi was a test and occasional Friday driver for the Tony Fernandes-founded team, which has been taken over by investors and is now headed by Colin Kolles and Christijan Albers.

Kolles warned immediately that the Leafield based team's 300-strong workforce could be shrunk by a third.

"Sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions," he told Reuters.

Indeed, it is believed many staff members were told on Monday and Tuesday that they are redundant.

Another departure, it became clear on Wednesday, is Rossi, who also drove for Caterham's GP2 team but will now not be in action this weekend at Hockenheim.

"Now it's time to move on," a statement on his Facebook page read on Wednesday.

"My goal is to be in F1 and add value to the sport and I'm very optimistic about my next steps; we have a great opportunity to grow the sport in the States and I believe the timing is perfect," Rossi added.

For the moment, it is believed Caterham's race drivers – Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson – are safe at least for the forthcoming Hockenheim-Hungary double header.

But Kolles indicated there could be more changes coming.

"The last driver I sacked out of formula one was Christijan Albers," he said. "And he's my team principal. This should give you a taste of how I deal with people."

Smooth sailor Rosberg feels sorry for Vettel
(GMM) Nico Rosberg is having a good week.

Already leading the world championship, the German got married, his beloved national team won the world cup, and he signed a new Mercedes deal worth a reported EUR 55 million.

"Just need to win my home grand prix now!" he exclaimed.

It is less smooth sailing in reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel's world. Rosberg has sympathy.

"It's definitely difficult if you're so used to success and then suddenly the car is no longer the best," Rosberg told APA news agency.

"Especially as he is such a competitive guy," he added.

Nonetheless, even with things going so well for Rosberg, Vettel insists he is not tempted to jump ship.

"I'd rather be in my car," Vettel told the German weekly Bunte.

"The fact that things are not going so well is clear, but I think that is just for the moment.

"Red Bull is very special to me, not only because of the past years in formula one, but also because of the support they gave in the very early years in my career," he insisted.

Still, he acknowledges that the car is not the only problem, as teammate Daniel Ricciardo is obviously doing "a better job" at the moment.

"He makes fewer mistakes than I do and so I have to pay him the necessary respect," Vettel said.

Ecclestone 'upset' with witness on Wednesday
(GMM) According to an observer reporting for the Austrian press agency APA, Bernie Ecclestone was "visibly upset" on Wednesday.

The F1 chief executive was back in court, listening to a witness as his corruption trial continued in Munich.

The witness had advised car manufacturers like Ferrari and Daimler at about the same time as Ecclestone paid Gerhard Gribkowsky the alleged $44 million bribe.

Ecclestone argues Gribkowsky was effectively extorting him, but the prosecutors say the 83-year-old was in a mood of desperately clinging to power.

Wednesday's witness did not seem to help the diminutive Briton's case.

The witness said key manufacturers involved in F1 were seriously threatening to split from the series and set up their own motor racing category.

Some, the witness testified, saw Ecclestone as a "key" to the success of a premier motor racing series, and had no intention of proceeding without him.

Others were apparently less bothered, or even happy with the thought of Ecclestone no longer being involved, which could have meant the freeing up of more commercial income.

According to APA, as the translator relayed the testimony to Ecclestone in English, the F1 supremo "shook his head several times, puffed out his cheeks and made notes".

Teams could seek Fric clarification – Force India
(GMM) The big question ahead of Hockenheim is whether any team will lodge a protest against rivals running 'Fric' suspension systems.

It is believed Thursday's scrutineering procedures is the preferred deadline for any protest to be lodged, after teams failed to reach an unanimous position on the technology whose legality has been questioned by the FIA.

Top teams like Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren have resolved simply to remove the systems from their cars ahead of the German grand prix.

Others are likely to follow suit, like Force India, who according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport are leaving key developments in the cupboard for Hockenheim due to the Fric controversy.

But according to the Silverstone based team's technical boss Andy Green, there could be another way.

"Every team can ask the stewards for their opinion," he said. "That would be not a protest, but a clarification.

"That way you would know where you stand."

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