Latest F1 news in brief – Monday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

Can Hamilton bounce back in front of his countrymen, or will his German teammate continue to smoke him?

06/30/14

  • Mercedes driver needle heads into Silverstone
  • Caterham needs 'help' amid speculation – Kobayashi
  • Hakkinen tips Ferrari to shed a driver
  • 'Not possible' to catch Mercedes in 2014 – Renault
  • Sochi '99 per cent' ready for F1
  • Dennis tells Button to 'try harder'
  • 'Illegal test' saga now over – reports
  • Silverstone Test Confirmed For Rio Haryanto
  • Raikkonen: Marco Mattiacci good for Ferrari F1 team New
  • Ecclestone indictment raises question over F1 "bribe" New

Mercedes driver needle heads into Silverstone
(GMM) Heading into his home race at Silverstone, the pressure is on Lewis Hamilton.

He may have the fastest car in the field, but so too does Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg, who successfully broke the Briton's early-season four-race winning streak.

"It's good to know I have the momentum fully on my side. Definitely good," the German said after winning the recent Austrian grand prix.

Undoubtedly, there is an element of psychological needle between Hamilton and Rosberg, whose long relationship almost completely imploded in Monaco a month ago.

But team boss Toto Wolff is worried that the war is actually only just beginning.

"We see that it's getting very competitive," said the Austrian. "Transparency is suffering a little bit and we need to make sure that this is not detrimental to the team."

The 'transparency' he is talking about is having both sides of the silver-clad garage working together for united glory, rather than against each other for the drivers' title.

Rosberg admits: "It's all open — the data, everything. It's just that sometimes you are not going to put it on the table, and say 'look here at what I've done'."

One man who has seen a situation just like this go from bad to disastrous is Jo Ramirez, who was team manager at McLaren during the Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost battle.

"I probably see that they (Hamilton and Rosberg) are going to end up completely separate," he predicted.

"The first time that they collide is going to be the crunch. It's not just the drivers it's everyone behind them. I can see why Toto is saying that it can be contagious," Ramirez told the Telegraph.

For now, even in the wake of the Monaco controversy, the battle is little more than an on-track rivalry and a light psychological needle between the races.

Hamilton, for instance, told British reporters at the weekend that, back in his karting days, "Nico was quick but he wasn't as quick as Robert Kubica".

And he also intimated that Rosberg has been lucky to build his 29-point championship lead off the back of two Hamilton DNFs.

"I want Nico to finish every race," he said. "Then you can't say I'm in the lead because he's had problems — it can only be that I've done a better job."

Caterham needs 'help' amid speculation – Kobayashi
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi is trying to keep his mind off Twitter and on the job of improving Caterham's flagging fortunes.

It appears the green-colored team has lost the support of its founder Tony Fernandes, who closed down his Twitter account late last week with the alarming news that "F1 hasn't worked".

Kobayashi returned to F1 this year to lead Caterham's charge from the cockpit, so with the mere survival of the team now in doubt, the Japanese claimed he is trying to look away from the speculation.

"I'm not really looking at that," he told Britain's Sky.

On the other hand, the 27-year-old can hardly ignore it.

"Of course, I'm not wishing these stories. I'm here for driving — me, I can't change anything, you know? I cannot bring any money or stuff."

That, it seems, is precisely the problem. Malaysian aviation entrepreneur Fernandes warned over the winter that Caterham was being given just one more season to shine.

Eight races in, traditional back-of-the-grid rival Marussia has finally broken through, stranding Caterham with no points and the prospect of no more free money.

"You can understand why he's sort of fallen out of love with F1 because they haven't scored a point in five years," former team driver Karun Chandhok said at the Goodwood Festival of Speed at the weekend.

"Tony's spent an awful lot of money along with his business partner Kamarudin. (But Marussia) have scored two world championship points and it's highly unlikely you are going to beat them.

"So at the end of the year it could mean he has to spend another $30 million. I could think of a fairly big reason to stop loving formula one," Chandhok added.

"He's got a football team that's back in the premiership, a motorbike team that is doing exceedingly well in Moto2 — and it costs him a tenth of what it costs to run a formula one team.

"Is it (F1) giving him the return he wants? Probably not," said Chandhok.

The Indian, however, said that even despite Fernandes' ominous tweet, reports of impending sale or closure for Caterham are for now "just rumors".

But team driver Kobayashi said Caterham's money problems are not just speculative.

"Financially, I think we're in a very difficult situation but I cannot do anything so I just focus on my job," he said.

"I just hope that somebody can help this team. This is the only thing I can say."

Hakkinen tips Ferrari to shed a driver
(GMM) Ferrari appears likely to shed at least one of its existing drivers.

That is the view of retired double world champion Mika Hakkinen, who thinks the Maranello team is grappling not only with a less than fully competitive 2014 car.

The Finn thinks Ferrari also has a driver problem.

"In my opinion Ferrari is more and more into the situation of eventually replacing one of the two drivers," he said in his latest interview with his sponsor Hermes.

"The comments being made by Fernando Alonso do not sound like someone who will be with Ferrari for much longer.

"And I don't want to say anything against Kimi Raikkonen, except that he is constantly behind his teammate," 45-year-old Hakkinen added.

The former McLaren driver also commented on the 2014 plight of F1's reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel.

"I do not understand how it is possible that his (Red Bull) car is permanently broken. Incredible," said Hakkinen.

'Not possible' to catch Mercedes in 2014 – Renault
(GMM) Not even halfway through the 2014 season, Renault is having to acknowledge it will not catch up with V6 pacesetters Mercedes.

That, according to the French marque's F1 engine chief Rob White, is because of the FIA's homologation rules, more commonly known in the paddock as the development 'freeze'.

Renault is under huge pressure from disgruntled partner Red Bull to up its game, but White said: "The possibility to change the specification of the engine during the season is extremely limited.

"We are pushing for next year," he is quoted by Italy's Autosprint, "in order to have a greater scope of development.

"At the moment it is not possible to change the specification of the power unit without the permission of the FIA, and the federation does not give any permissions for performance reasons," White explained.

Nonetheless, White says Renault has managed to make "significant improvements" since its pre-season crisis, and more is still in the pipeline for 2014.

"But the changes will be more long-term," he added.

"At the end of the day we are not looking for excuses, because the rules are the same for everyone and we have to respect what the others have done."

Meanwhile, Renault Sport F1 president Jean-Michel Jalinier has played down speculation Red Bull's patience has run out, as the reigning world champions declare their dissatisfaction publicly and repeatedly.

"The cooperation is very intense," he told Speed Week, "and we are in contact daily.

"But at the working level, everything is running smoothly," Jalinier insisted. "The atmosphere is good and constructive."

Sochi '99 per cent' ready for F1
(GMM) The Sochi track is nearing completion, as preparations for the inaugural Russian grand prix race on.

Even amid speculation the Crimean crisis could derail the country's first ever F1 race, organizers have been stepping up their plans for the October debut.

Germany's SID news agency quoted promoter Sergey Vorobyov as revealing: "Due to popular demand, we have decided to build another grandstand on one of the most interesting points of the circuit."

And another official of the race promoter Omega has been quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax as saying the Sochi venue is now "99 per cent" ready for October.

Dennis tells Button to 'try harder'
(GMM) As speculation swirls around the future of F1's most experienced active driver, McLaren supremo Ron Dennis has called on Jenson Button to up his game.

At the end of his fifteenth consecutive season on the grid, 34-year-old Briton Button's current McLaren contract is up.

Despite speculative links between the Woking based team and Button's fellow champions like Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and even Lewis Hamilton, Dennis insisted in Austria that McLaren is "not looking to finalize our driver lineup now".

He did, however, admit that he would "love" to have drivers of that caliber at Woking.

The rumor goes that Dennis could reunite with his former protege Hamilton if the 29-year-old fails to beat Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to this year's title.

"That's not really something I want to think about," Hamilton told British reporters at the weekend.

"Why would I even consider it (losing the title)? It's all about positive energy."

Indeed, 'positive energy' is something Dennis believes in strongly, and so he insists Button should not interpret his latest comments as some sort of threat.

"No one should ever feel threatened," he told British television Sky, "either as a driver or an engineer.

"All we want to do is win, and we have to take considered decisions in that process."

But Dennis hinted that the 'decision' will only fall in 2009 title winner Button's favor if he is able to improve his performance this year, despite not having a race-winning car.

At the very same time, it appears likely McLaren will retain the services of rookie Kevin Magnussen beyond 2014.

"I'm sure Kevin is giving a big wake-up call to Jenson," Dennis said.

"In some ways you say 'Great, we made a great choice with Kevin', and in other ways you say 'Come on Jenson, you are a world champion and absolutely one thing you can do on a consistent basis – and you should be doing it – is beating your teammate'.

"Do I want him (Button) to try harder? Of course I do," Dennis insisted. "He's a highly paid grand prix driver, and yes, we're not giving him the best car, but he could do his bit, and Kevin's got to make it as difficult for him as possible."

'Illegal test' saga now over – reports
(GMM) A saga involving a controversial pre-season test is now over.

Last month, an unnamed whistleblower circulated letters to the FIA and some rival teams about an allegedly illegal six-day test on Austrian automotive company AVL's indoor 'rolling road' facility.

It subsequently emerged that the test involved Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso but possibly also Red Bull test driver Antonio Felix da Costa.

Engine supplier Renault's Remi Taffin confirmed: "We just had to work with our partner AVL, because our own facilities were at full capacity."

Renault argued that the 'test' was in fact just perfectly legal engine bench running, amid reports the Toro Rosso was not fitted with front or rear wings.

Nonetheless, an FIA spokesperson said three weeks ago: "We will look into the matter carefully and then answer any questions."

It appears the investigation is now over, with all parties reportedly cleared of any wrongdoing.

Even Red Bull's arch-rival Mercedes admits the test appears to have been above board.

"We do not suspect anything against the regulations," team boss Toto Wolff told the Austrian magazine Sportwoche a week ago, "especially as the wings were removed from the car."

And at around the same time, Wolff also told Kleine Zeitung newspaper: "We were made aware of it with an anonymous letter.

"The FIA is looking into it to make sure everything was lawful," he added, "but to our knowledge, it was not an aero test."

Silverstone Test Confirmed For Rio Haryanto
Caterham F1 Team has confirmed that Indonesia’s Rio Haryanto will drive on day two of the sixth 2014 F1 test At Silverstone on July 9th, joining Will Stevens who drives day one.

Rio joined EQ8 Caterham Racing in January to contest the 2014 GP2 championship and is currently tenth in the standings with 26 points after a good start to his season. He will now step up to an F1 seat for the third time in his career, having previously taken part in F1 tests in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and Silverstone in 2012.

Rio Haryanto: “I can’t wait to be back in an F1 car and I’m delighted it’s with Caterham F1 Team, the senior team to EQ8 Caterham Racing. The last time I drove an F1 car was at the young driver test at Silverstone in 2012 and with the new engine regulations this year I’m sure it’ll be a very different experience. The goal for me is to use this day as another learning experience, another chance to build on the F1 laps I’ve already done, and while my focus before the test is obviously to do the best job I can in GP2, I will be 100% ready to work to the plan the team set and help them develop as best I can."

"I would like to take this chance to thank Pertamina for their continued support during my GP2 season with EQ8 Caterham Racing, which has provided me with the opportunity to test the Caterham F1 Team car."

Raikkonen: Marco Mattiacci good for Ferrari F1 team
Kimi Raikkonen is encouraged by new Ferrari Formula 1 team boss Marco Mattiacci's approach to turning the Scuderia's ailing fortunes around.

Mattiacci took over from outgoing team principal Stefano Domenicali in April, and insisted after the recent Austrian Grand Prix that Ferrari has a recovery plan in place to improve its disappointing form.

Finn Raikkonen, who is struggling with his own issues with the handling of Ferrari's F14 T, reckons the work Mattiacci has done since he arrived is cause for optimism within the team.

"Everybody has their own way of doing things – it's very early days for Marco, and when he started he didn't have as much knowledge as Stefano of F1, but he's a very nice guy and he wants to really make a difference and know the sport," Raikkonen said during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.

"Those are good signs. He's doing a lot of work that people don't see and I think he's doing a very good job.

"He's a good guy to work with; he's just a different person from Stefano.

"I had a pretty close relationship with Stefano but it's just a change for all of us, and I think sometimes that's a good thing.

"People come from outside of F1 with a different view of things and it can help.

"It's been good so far and I'm expecting he can do a very good job." Autosport.com

Ecclestone indictment raises question over F1 "bribe"
The bribery case against Bernie Ecclestone is still motoring on in Germany not that the wider world would know about it. The media appears to have gradually become tired of the seemingly endless stream of bankers and bureaucrats who are giving evidence. As is often the case in these kind of trials, the big news recently broke away from the court room and it comes from the indictment against Ecclestone according to an article in American business magazine Forbes by Christian Sylt.

Surprisingly the indictment seems to call into question whether Ecclestone really did pay a bribe as he has been charged with doing. Prosecutors have accused Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust of paying a £26m ($44m) bribe to steer the sale of F1 in 2006 to the private equity firm CVC but close inspection of the 256-page indictment reveals what appears to be a key hurdle to their case.

Ecclestone admits paying Gerhard Gribkowsky, the former chief risk officer of German bank BayernLB which owned a 47.2% stake in F1's parent company SLEC. However, he denies that it was a bribe and says he paid Gribkowsky to stop him making unfounded allegations about his tax affairs.

The show-stopping revelation in the indictment is that Gribkowsky did not actually have the power to steer the sale of F1 to CVC which raises the question of what would have been the point in Ecclestone bribing him. The decision to sell was made by a majority of BayernLB board members and Ecclestone has not been charged with bribing them.

BayernLB was paid £478m ($814m) for its stake which valued F1 at £1.2bn ($2bn) and was double CVC's initial offer. The indictment reveals that Ecclestone knew Gribkowsky could not get the BayernLB board to accept the initial lower offer. "The Accused knew that BayernLB was not ready to sell its shares for offers of between £235m ($400m) and £294m ($500m), so the resulting sale price from an enterprise value of £600m ($1bn) ,as CVC brought into play, would not meet the expectations of the bank. The Accused knew that a sale at this price would fall through since he reckoned that even Dr Gribkowsky could not negotiate this price with BayernLB."

The indictment adds that Ecclestone was aware of this because "BayernLB did not agree to offers in the order of between £235m ($400m) and £294m ($500m) which were made between April and July 2005."

According to the indictment, Ecclestone encouraged CVC to pay more as he "reckoned from the start that BayernLB would not turn down an offer based on an enterprise value of £1.2bn ($2bn) for 100% of SLEC." This is exactly what happened as BayernLB snapped up the £478m offer for its stake and numerous executives from the bank have testified that they did not believe it was undervalued.

If the F1 stake could not have been sold at the lower price, because the BayernLB board would not have accepted it, then it directly follows that Gribkowsky did not have the power to steer the sale to CVC. If Gribkowsky did not have the power to steer the sale to CVC then how could Ecclestone have bribed him to do this? To guarantee that BayernLB sold its F1 stake to CVC Ecclestone would have had to bribe the board of the bank but there is no suggestion that this is what he did.

Given that the most Gribkowsky could do is try to convince the BayernLB board to agree to sell it seems that a charge of attempted bribery would better suit the prosecutors' evidence against Ecclestone. Of course he has not been charged with attempted bribery but with bribery itself though time will tell whether this sticks. Pitpass.com

Leave a Reply