Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Hamilton now 29 pts adrift

    Mistakes cost Hamilton, rivalry hurting Mercedes

  • Horner attacks 'unacceptable' Renault
  • Personal sponsor to end Schumacher deal – report
  • Tempers fray as Ferrari looks to 2015
  • Alonso says Felipe Massa 'playing' with him in closing stages
  • A Williams win was never on the cards

Mistakes cost Hamilton, rivalry hurting Mercedes
(GMM) Key mistakes in Austria blew out Lewis Hamilton's championship deficit by another 7 points.

The gap to teammate Nico Rosberg is now 29 points with almost half the 2014 season gone, and conspiracy theorists on Sunday wondered if Mercedes is now actively favoring its German title leader.

According to them, Hamilton's almost 2 second deficit to Rosberg across his two pitstops at the Red Bull Ring was more than just a coincidence.

"I don't know," Hamilton said on Sunday when asked about his crew's slow service compared to Rosberg.

"I have to have a look at the feedback and just see what the team say about the stops.

"Obviously it's frustrating when you lose time because you're constantly doing everything you can to gain a tenth here, a tenth there, so when you lose quite a chunk – two seconds over two pit stops – it's tough," he added.

Actually, an initial analysis shows that Hamilton positioned his car poorly for his first pitstop, before a wheel rim problem slowed down the second stop.

Undoubtedly, a more pressing issue for Mercedes is the competition.

Six weeks ago in Spain, the silver-clad team's winning advantage was an enormous 50 seconds, but in Monaco, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was on the pace.

The Australian then won in Canada, and Williams' Valtteri Bottas was just 8 seconds behind when the checkered flag waved for Rosberg in Austria.

Team boss Toto Wolff admitted on Sunday that he thinks the heated rivalry between Rosberg and Hamilton's respective sides of the garage is allowing more unified rivals to catch up.

"Transparency is suffering a little bit," he said. "And we need to make sure this is not detrimental to the team.

"Every race we need to learn. And we can only learn if we have an open and transparent way of working with each other.

"The drivers' main agenda is about winning the drivers' championship. Our main agenda is about winning the constructors' championship.

"Maybe first we need to win the constructors and then we can unleash them," added Wolff.

Some believe the proximity to the chasing Williams in Austria, who even monopolized the front row of the grid, is because Mercedes de-tuned its performance in the wake of the reliability problems in Canada.

Team chairman Niki Lauda, however, said the de-tuning accounted only for "two tenths per lap" in Austria.

"I note with surprise that the lead we had in Montreal has shrunk virtually to nil," the great Austrian is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"Almost the whole race, Williams had the same speed as us — we beat them only by better tactics and tire wear. So now the alarm bells must ring now."

Horner attacks 'unacceptable' Renault
(GMM) Team boss Christian Horner stepped up his attack on Red Bull's engine supplier Renault after the Austrian grand prix.

At the debut of the energy drink company's very own grand prix at the Red Bull Ring, the premier Renault-powered team was not only uncompetitive, but world champion Sebastian Vettel was struck yet again by technical trouble.

The home soil failure, with German Vettel retiring voluntarily to save engine mileage, came among swirling paddock rumors Red Bull is on the cusp of approving a project to build its very own F1 engine.

Vettel, meanwhile, effectively wrote off his chances of winning a fifth consecutive title in Austria.

"You don't have to be a genius," the 26-year-old, referring to the mathematical unlikelihood of a successful campaign this year, is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"I'm not scoring points while Mercedes is doing a flawless job."

In utter contrast, Red Bull's blunt Dr Helmut Marko told Bild newspaper the weekend had been "an absolutely disastrous" home race for the team.

And boss Horner made clear in what direction Red Bull's frustration is pointed.

"Reliability is unacceptable, performance is unacceptable. There needs to be change at Renault," he said.

"It can't continue like this. It's not good for Renault and it's not good for Red Bull. Something needs to happen."

The big rumor in Austria was that Red Bull is on the verge of giving up on Renault and instead teaming up with Austrian companies like Pankl and AVL to build its own Infiniti-funded and branded bespoke F1 engine.

Sources indicate that a project like that would need to begin immediately in order to be minimally ready for the 2016 season.

Renault figures revealed at the weekend that Red Bull is in fact contractually tied to its French partner until the end of 2016, but Horner told Sky that Renault will only "maybe" still be in the rear of the car beyond next year.

"A team like Red Bull isn't short of choices," Horner said, "but we want to make sure we're competitive for the long term."

Even Renault's own advisor Alain Prost, a four time world champion like Vettel, admitted the ball has been hit swiftly from Red Bull's side of the court.

"This does not look good," he is quoted by Der Spiegel, "and I know that something must change."

Personal sponsor to end Schumacher deal – report
(GMM) One of Michael Schumacher's personal sponsors is ending its deal with the embattled F1 legend.

For years, advertising campaigns for the bottled mineral water brand Rosbacher have regularly featured a bare-chested Schumacher in various sporting poses.

Earlier this month, as the seven time world champion remained in intensive care in the wake of his late December skiing fall, parent company Hassia Gruppe's chief Dirk Hinkel said he continued to back Schumacher.

"We remain committed to him and his family," he said, "and send him our best wishes."

Hinkel said at the same time that the more than eight year collaboration with Schumacher had led to "a much higher awareness" of the Rosbacher brand.

But the Swiss Sunday newspaper Sonntagsblick reports that Hinkel has apparently had a change of heart.

Just as it emerges that Schumacher has left intensive care in France and transferred to a Swiss rehabilitation hospital, the report claimed the great 45-year-old's Rosbacher contract will not be extended beyond 2014.

"After that," a spokeswoman confirmed, "our advertising will be with the product alone."

Tempers fray as Ferrari looks to 2015
(GMM) When told on Sunday to push up to his nearest rival, the radio answer from Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was immediate.

"Well, give me more power!" the Finn told his engineer.

Raikkonen has notably struggled since returning to the Italian team in 2014, but so too has Ferrari with its newly V6-powered F14-T.

"Kimi complained about the engine," new team boss Marco Mattiacci conceded after the Austrian grand prix, "but it's up to us to give him a car with which he can deliver his value."

In red uniforms, tempers are fraying all over the Maranello based camp, whose cool Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher-led era now seems entirely of another time.

Now, rumors of discontent are rife.

Spain's Marca reports that, after the Canadian grand prix, Mattiacci had an angry exchange with Pat Fry, whose technical role at Ferrari has been in doubt for several months since the arrival of James Allison, who leads the 2015 project.

Marca claims Briton Fry offered to resign after the Montreal row.

"It's rubbish," a spokesman insisted. "Do not listen to these rumors."

Mattiacci, however, does not deny that a frank exchange after Canada took place, as Ferrari plots a desperate course to improve.

"I like meetings where people talk openly and honestly and no one is silent," he told Spanish television in Austria.

"After Canada, we held meetings to discuss our weaknesses and in what direction we should go for the future."

That is because, although Raikkonen wants more "power", Mattiacci said Ferrari needs to work on every single area of the car for 2015, not just the underperforming engine.

"I would not isolate one area," he said. "I do not think that all of our problems are related to the engine, although the one Mercedes has produced is excellent."

Indeed, in Austria, Mercedes-powered cars totally dominated the top seven finishing positions — with the only exception being Fernando Alonso in fifth place.

He may not have a winning car, but – when it comes to driver skill – Alonso has the respect of the entire paddock.

Asked how satisfying that is, he answered on Sunday: "Not much, to be honest. It's been like that for five years.

"There is always a satisfaction that everyone believes you are doing the maximum in the work you do — drivers, team bosses, fans.

"But I would rather have less respect and more trophies."

Alonso is quoted by AS newspaper as admitting that closing the gap to Mercedes in 2014 is "impossible".

2015, however, is another thing, despite rumors he is desperate for a change of scene after five barren years in red.

When asked if Mercedes' dominance can be ended after just one season, Alonso hesitated as he admitted: "Yes … yes.

"I think a lot can happen from one year to the next, as we saw from the past year to this one.

"Especially this year, with these regulations, everything is very new, so I expect 2015 to be another huge step for everyone, including Mercedes, but those who are below them have more room to improve.

"We will catch up to Mercedes. That is our hope," Alonso concluded.

Alonso says Felipe Massa 'playing' with him in closing stages
Mercedes' power advantage at the Austrian GP was such that Fernando Alonso reckoned Felipe Massa was "playing" with him in the closing stages of Sunday's race.

The Ferrari driver closed to within about a second of his former teammate with a dozen of the race's 71 laps to go before Massa calmly started to pull away again in his Mercedes-powered Williams – Alonso therefore having to content himself with fifth place at the checkered flag.

With the German manufacturer's superiority once more underlined by Nico Rosberg leading Lewis Hamilton home in the works team's sixth one-two of the season, Ferrari's deficit was again laid bare in the scenic Styrian Mountains.

Alonso put in a typically spirited performance and even led the race for a short time around the second pit-stop window.
In truth, however, the closest the double World Champion got to the Silver Arrows was when he was passed by the fast-starting Hamilton on the opening lap.

"I was close with Massa at the end and then he pull away," Alonso said afterwards. "The same with Hamilton on the first lap; it was unbelievable, the difference between the two cars. If they're running with those settings, they will probably lap everyone.
"With Massa, I think he was just controlling the pace to be honest. I get close to him with ten or 11 lap to go and then when I was in the DRS zone, he pull away another two seconds. So he was playing a little bit."

Alonso's presence might once again have been conspicuous amongst rivals enjoying Mercedes' clear advantage but the Spaniard said he gained little satisfaction from it.

"Not much," he sighed. "It's been five years like this. There is always satisfaction that everyone believes you are always performing at your best. There's the respect from drivers, Team Principals and fans for the job that you do.

"But I prefer to have no respect and to win more trophies." Sky Sports

A Williams win was never on the cards
Rob Smedley is adamant Williams are not disappointed with their third and fourth places in the Austrian GP as the win was never the target.

Although Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas started Sunday's Austrian GP from the front row of the grid, the duo finished fourth and third respectively.

The race was won by Nico Rosberg, who started behind the Grove drivers, with Lewis Hamilton runner-up.
Smedley, though, says that's pretty much what they expected.

"I think we were beaten by a faster car and a better organized team, so hats off to them because they did a better job than us," the Williams head of vehicle performance told Autosport.

"We were not without problems ourselves and had to manage systems on the car – brakes, tires, and it was all about that, and about consolidating and making sure we got third and fourth, and we didn't do anything silly trying to race Mercedes and finish fifth or sixth, or worse."

He added: "I'm not sure we could have done it much differently to be honest.

"Mercedes had problems but I don't think they were running their full pace.

"If you react to their first pitstop there's every chance we wouldn't have got our cars to the end of the race, the tire wear was that close, so I'm reasonably happy with what we did.

"We wouldn't be competitive people if we didn't feel a slight twinge of disappointment, but you've got to look at the positives." Planet F1

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