Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • FIA approves controversial grid restarts for 2015
  • Report – Thursday 'the end' for struggling teams?
  • Ferrari tester insists Alonso 'happy' in red
  • Wolff, Marko 'not on speaking terms'
  • Boullier: Works engine deals now critical

FIA approves controversial grid restarts for 2015
(GMM) The FIA has approved restarting races from the grid after safety car periods from 2015.

The controversial rule change, undoubtedly designed to spice up the 'show', was agreed by the decision-making F1 Commission recently but only rubber-stamped by the World Motor Sport Council in Munich on Thursday.

The change has split opinions within the paddock, with many believing the idea of mid-race grid starts is too "artificial", or compromising safety for spectacle.

"I guess it's maybe a bit more exciting because there's a bit more variability with the standing start," said Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, arguing that a grid restart could unfairly punish the race leader because it is less predictable than the current safety car procedure.

"I don't think it's that bad how it is (now)," said the Australian. "For spectators, it would be better for a standing start but it's probably not the most fair idea."

Fernando Alonso, however, is ambivalent, recalling that kart races are often restarted from the grid.

"I did both and it makes no difference, I think, to me," the Spaniard is quoted by Britain's Sky. "I don't have any preference."

Report – Thursday 'the end' for struggling teams?
(GMM) F1's last chance to slash costs for struggling teams has now passed.

The FIA's World Motor Sport Council met in Munich on Thursday, less than a mere handful of days before the end-of-June deadline for rule changes to be made for 2015 without the near-impossible need for unanimity.

With the budget cap proposal already dead in the water, many struggling teams had hoped meaningful cost reductions would be agreed before the final deadline.

But the new and powerful 'Strategy Group' – dominated by the most competitive and richest teams – has ceded only a handful of minor measures.

They were rubber-stamped by the FIA on Thursday.

Engine use has been reduced by one 'power unit' per driver to just four in 2015, wind tunnel usage per week has been reduced for 2015 from 80 to 65 hours, the Bahrain winter test has been banned and the personnel 'curfew' at races has been lengthened.

Moreover, the use of computational fluid dynamics has been further restricted, teams will no longer be able to use more than one wind tunnel for testing, and two of the four in-season tests have been scrapped.

Many agree that the changes amount to 'tinkering', rather than a substantial move to ensure the survival of struggling teams.

Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for Swiss newspaper Blick, wondered: "Is this the end for Marussia, Caterham or Sauber?"

Indeed, with both Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone acknowledging the prospect of losing teams, it is known that detailed talks about three-car teams have already taken place.

"At the moment we have eleven teams and hopefully they stay in formula one," said Toto Wolff, boss of the dominant Mercedes team.

"But the last 50 years has shown that some teams come, some teams go. If it falls below a critical level, having a third car could be a way of filling up the grid."

Franz Tost, boss of Red Bull's second team Toro Rosso, also admitted "the risk is there" that the F1 grid of 2015 will not feature all 22 cars of today.

But as of today, the rules do not allow three-car teams, and the June 30 deadline for non-unanimous rule changes for 2015 will imminently pass.

"No," Tost insisted. "If it was needed, I would not be surprised to see third cars in 2015," he is quoted by Italy's Omnicorse.

Meanwhile, at its Munich meeting on Thursday, the FIA also banned the ugly 'anteater'-style noses for 2015, and rubber stamped the use of titanium skid blocks so that they are "lighter" and "better contained".

Titanium skid blocks were tested in practice in Austria last weekend, with the aim of spicing up the show with 80s-style sparks.

Ferrari tester insists Alonso 'happy' in red
(GMM) Ferrari test driver Marc Gene has played down reports Fernando Alonso could be considering a move for 2015.

Spaniard Alonso, regarded as perhaps the very best driver in F1 today, has been mentioned along with fellow champions Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton as McLaren seeks a truly top driver to spearhead its new Honda era beginning next year.

Indeed, having hinted recently that Jenson Button will be re-signed, McLaren team boss Eric Boullier is now wavering.

"It is a question where I cannot say yes and I cannot say no," he told reporters this week. "We are evaluating and assessing every strategy for the future."

Alonso's single year at McLaren in 2007 ended more than acrimoniously, but team sources have made clear nothing would stand in the way of a reunion with Ron Dennis some eight years later.

The 32-year-old has often sounded frustrated by his title-less five-year stint in red, culminating in yet another disappointing campaign for the start of the new turbo V6 era this season.

McLaren-Honda would be a fresh start and a blank canvas for Alonso's ambition of adding a third title to his tally.

"It is something I am working for and hoping for," he told the BBC earlier this month. "It is not that I'm not happy with two but the third puts you in a list of very important names.

"I think I can carry on long enough to win and to be competitive for some good years," added Alonso. "I don't know how many — three, five, seven. I don't think it should be any problem."

As far as Ferrari test driver and fellow Spaniard Marc Gene is concerned, however, Alonso is perfectly happy at Maranello.

"Si, si (yes, yes)," he told Spanish publications this week.

"I think since 2010 we have seen the best of Fernando. In 2010, 2012 or this year his driving is perfect," Gene added.

"He is definitely the best driver there is right now in F1; the most complete. And it's a shame this has not been reflected in more titles — at least two. He deserved them.

"That said, he is happy at Ferrari; he could not be in a better place," Gene added.

Wolff, Marko 'not on speaking terms'
(GMM) Mercedes, the dominant team of 2014, and defending quadruple world champions Red Bull, are the perfect F1 enemies.

After winning on Red Bull's home soil last weekend, Mercedes released an advertising hoarding with the slogan: "Silver Arrow gives you wings".

And, also after Sunday's win at the Dietrich Mateschitz-owned and promoted Red Bull Ring, silver-clad personnel climbed the enormous iron bull statue in the centre of the circuit and decorated it with a huge three-pointed star necklace.

All in good fun. But less jovial have been scraps over cancelled hotel bookings, or when Mercedes lawyers urged the FIA to ban Red Bull for three races over the fuel flow saga this year.

It is obvious that the bad feeling has affected the relationship between Red Bull and Mercedes' respective Austrian chiefs, Dr Helmut Marko and Toto Wolff.

Mercedes' Wolff confirmed to the Austrian weekly NEWS that the pair are not on speaking terms.

"No, we do not (speak)," he said. "He's just not a point of contact for me in his role and therefore there is no reason for us to talk to each other."

He stopped short of saying the pair 'hate' one another.

"'Hate' would be too emotive," Wolff insisted. "We are competitors on the track, that's our job and it's important that we obtain the greatest possible success.

"I respect the Red Bull team," he said. "Nevertheless, life is too short to drink bad wine."

Boullier: Works engine deals now critical
McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier believes a works engine deal is now an essential ingredient if teams want to succeed in Formula 1.

The sport has switched to V6-turbo charged power units this year – as part of a number of regulation changes – and he cited Red Bull's fall from grace and the rise of Mercedes as proof of just how important it is to have a custom-built engine in this new era.

"Having a works engine allows you to play with a lot more channels and various set-up possibilities than if you have a customer engine," Boullier told reporters during a McLaren phone-in. "Let's just take this year for example, if you compare Mercedes GP and Red Bull Racing. We all know that Red Bull Racing's chassis is very good and is maybe slightly better than the Mercedes one.

"However the big difference between the two is that Red Bull has a Renault engine, which is not a works engine."

McLaren will switch to using engines from Honda next season and while Boullier concedes it is 'big project' he is pleased with what the Japanese manufacturer has done to date as it prepares for its comeback.

"Obviously it takes months, even years, to build it up [an F1 engine program]. You work to a clear schedule and have clear goals to target.

"So far though I think everything is in order and matching what we need until the first race [with Honda] next year."

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