Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Mercedes driver tension still simmering
  • FIA vows to ease driver penalties
  • Traffic chaos mars first day at 'Red Bull Ring'
  • F1 to create 'sparks' in Austria practice
  • Ecclestone to 'comply with' Hockenheim contract
  • Wolff sells 5pc Williams stake

Mercedes driver tension still simmering
(GMM) The tension between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is continuing to simmer on the back boiler.

The pot boiled over spectacularly in Monaco, where Briton Hamilton's behavior was slammed by the media as a 'tantrum' in the wake of Rosberg's controversial qualifying mistake.

It is widely thought team chairman Niki Lauda, a triple world champion with famously vast experience of driver rivalries, stepped in.

But Hamilton told Bild newspaper in Austria: "Niki does less for our relationship than everyone thinks.

"I've known Nico since I was 13," he said. "If there are problems, we'll talk — the team doesn't have to tell us."

Asked, however, if Lauda phoned him after the Monaco saga, Hamilton admitted: "He sent me a text message. Then I called him and told him that I did want to talk to Nico.

"Nico and I spoke and now everything is good — which pleases Niki, of course," he smiled.

And Toto Wolff, Mercedes team boss, said smiling is a better tactic for Hamilton than was his Monaco tantrum.

"Lewis has learned that a sad face does nothing for his image," he is quoted by Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

Still, the tension continues to simmer. Rosberg said before travelling to Austria that he thinks his last two results have given him the psychological "edge" over Hamilton.

On Thursday, Hamilton hit back: "It's positive he feels that way, even for me.

"If he is feeling that way and I beat him anyway, that's even better for me."

He rejected the theory that Rosberg has managed to pull out a 22-point championship lead due to driving "smarter" — for instance by more successfully nursing an ailing Mercedes car two weeks ago in Canada.

"Anyone who says that doesn't know the facts," Hamilton hit back.

"I had more problems with my car because I had less fresh air (for cooling) — Nico was in more air and so he went to the end," he explained.

Smarter or not, F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss on Thursday said he would put his money on Hamilton.

"Without a doubt, Lewis is the fastest in formula one," he said at a Maserati event in Italy.

"It's a great battle with Nico, because the German is consistent, makes few mistakes, is good with the mechanics — but Hamilton is undoubtedly faster. I have no doubt about that," Moss insisted.

FIA vows to ease driver penalties
(GMM) A big talking point in Austria on Thursday was the continuing feud between Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez.

The pair crashed and ended their Canadian grand prix in hospital, where the real dispute began.

"I said that it was dangerous," recalled Massa, "and that he needs to learn, but he just turned and left.

"I will not trust him anymore, definitely not."

The FIA, however, has agreed to revisit the issue of Perez's five-place grid penalty for the Austrian grand prix, because the Mexican was still in hospital when he should have been interviewed by the Montreal stewards.

But it is on the very issue of driver penalties that F1 is about to turn a sharp corner.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the FIA has acknowledged that the readiness with which penalties are given to drivers is beginning to affect their motivation to battle wheel-to-wheel.

"The plan," confirmed race director Charlie Whiting in Austria, "is that only serious and unequivocal violations will be punished from now."

He clarified, however, that F1 is not making actual rule changes.

"It's just a different approach," said Whiting. "The teams have promised not to bombard us with every little thing during the race.

"And we will take the liberty to close cases (before they are investigated by the stewards) on the basis of how serious we regard it to be. And if we do initiate an investigation, there will be a clear culprit.

"So there will be significantly more cases that could be judged as a 'normal racing incident'.

Whiting said that the case of Perez and Massa's heavy crash in Montreal, for example, would most certainly still be sent to the stewards for investigation.

"But we want to issue a penalty only when the question of guilt is absolutely clear. In this case, we might conclude that it was a racing incident, because the guilt of one of the drivers is not 100 per cent," he said.

Traffic chaos mars first day at 'Red Bull Ring'
(GMM) The Red Bull Ring's first grand prix weekend got off to a sluggish start, when members of the teams and media got stuck in a huge traffic jam.

McLaren chiefs Eric Boullier and Sam Michael, for example, abandoned their car several kilometers from the former A1-Ring, which has been impressively refurbished by Red Bull and is hosting its first race for a decade.

Boullier and Michael walked instead, while the local Kleine Zeitung newspaper agreed that those on bicycles were the only ones "in the fast lane".

"There is just one road in and out of the circuit," said Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson.

The Times' Kevin Eason agreed: "Dietrich Mateschitz … has transformed this venerable circuit into Austria's new sporting pride and joy. Shame no one remembered to revamp the rural road system."

Mercedes' PR machine also hit a snag on Thursday, when drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, expected to dominate the weekend's action, steadfastly refused to refer to the circuit by the name that matches their arch F1 enemy.

"It would be an extra pleasure," Rosberg smiled mischievously, "to win here at the A1-Ring."

Hamilton, meanwhile, was quoted as questioning Red Bull's claim that Austria is even a home race for the reigning world champions.

"They are a British team, based in the UK," he insisted. "Besides, I know the circuit by a different name. That's how I will always think of it."

Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, too, refused to play nice with F1's new race hosts, insisting he would not be happy to see Red Bull win on home soil.

"Excuse me, but we're fighting a world championship, so there are no presents," he told Osterreich newspaper.

"On the contrary, as Austrians, Toto Wolff and I want to win with our German car in Austria," Lauda smiled.

F1 to create 'sparks' in Austria practice
(GMM) Hot on the heels of the exhaust 'megaphone', F1 is now courting more controversy with its latest push to spice up the show.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has been the loudest critic of the entertainment factor in 2014, and on Thursday Kimi Raikkonen agreed that the volume of the engines may be turning off the fans.

But he sent reporters into giggles at the Red Bull Ring when he made his proposal to end Montezemolo's carping about the sport: "Probably if we start to win again," the Finn quipped.

"At least from our side it wouldn't be boring anymore."

Teammate Fernando Alonso, however, is more open to novel ideas. "I think KERS should come back to the cars," said the Spaniard, rueing that the overtaking 'boost' was replaced this year by more comprehensive hybrid systems.

"And bringing in a tire competition would mix the teams," he added. "We could help the small teams like they do in MotoGP, giving them a different spec of tires or different fuel quantity or whatever to use in the race.

"So there are some ideas we could take from other sports," said Alonso.

One idea today's F1 wants to steal from its own illustrious past is the showers of magnesium sparks that characterized the 80s.

The sparks ended when teams were forced to install a wooden composite 'plank' underneath the cars — but fans may see sparks flying yet again on Friday in Austria.

In morning practice, Ferrari's Raikkonen and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg will test a couple of titanium plate solutions fitted to the floor of their cars, with the sole purpose of thrilling fans with the sight of flying sparks.

But F1 is not stopping there. After Mercedes' 'megaphone' failed to turn up the volume at the Barcelona test, Ferrari is now preparing to test its own solution to add grunt to the turbo V6s.

At the forthcoming Silverstone test, Ferrari will test a 'two-pipe' exhaust solution, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.

Correspondent Michael Schmidt also reports that the FIA will tidy up the regulations next year to preclude the possibility of the unseemly 'anteater' noses.

Ecclestone to 'comply with' Hockenheim contract
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has played down the threat to Hockenheim's future on the F1 calendar.

The track's current contract is for a race this July, and then again in 2016 and 2018, as it alternates an annual spot on the schedule with another German venue, the Nurburgring.

But Hockenheim's deal has come under threat by a new deal that looks set to be agreed between Ecclestone and the Nurburgring, where the latter circuit will host the German grand prix every year until at least 2019.

"We believe we have reached an agreement," the F1 chief executive told Rhein Zeitung newspaper. "I hope we are in agreement."

The 83-year-old Briton has suggested the new deal would mean Hockenheim is axed altogether.

"We cannot judge and do not want to speculate on whether the race will take place in 2016 and 2018 at Hockenheim," said Nurburgring chief Carsten Schumacher, "or whether it would be possible for there to be two formula one races in Germany."

Hockenheim, however, is adamant: "We have a contract," insisted track chief Georg Seiler, "and it has no exit clause."

Indeed, despite his earlier hints that Hockenheim's deal might end, Ecclestone now says he will honor the existing contract.

"We respect the contract with Hockenheim," he told Rhein Zeitung. "We will comply with the agreements we have."

Wolff sells 5pc Williams stake
(GMM) Williams has a new co-owner.

Ever since he bought into Mercedes and became the Brackley squad's team boss, Toto Wolff has been looking to sell his 15 per cent Williams stake.

5 per cent of the stake has been bought by a US businessman called Brad Hollinger, it emerged in Austria early on Friday.

Hollinger is CEO of a company called Vibra Healthcare, and he also founded The Hollinger Group, operating multiple facilities around America.

The BBC quoted Hollinger as saying at the Red Bull Ring that he believes F1 is "right on the cusp of another explosion in growth" through exploitation of social media.

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