Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

06/19/14

  • Hamilton and Rosberg continue rivalry in Austria

    'Fight' sticker to stay on Mercedes after Schumacher coma

  • Title rivals take 'mind games' into Austria
  • Beating Vettel 'says a lot about me' – Ricciardo
  • F1 figures in crucial meetings before Austria GP
  • Trulli adds to F1's 'worry' about formula E – report
  • Tax tribunal turns down McLaren 'spy fine' claim
  • 'Alternatives' to Renault do exist for Red Bull – Mateschitz New
  • F1 abandons short GP weekend idea – report New

'Fight' sticker to stay on Mercedes after Schumacher coma
(GMM) The words 'Keep fighting Michael' are to remain on Mercedes' dominant F1 car.

The German squad – F1 legend Michael Schumacher's last grand prix team during his 2010-2012 comeback – has been running the twitter hashtag on the cockpit of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's silver W05 all year.

But better news is now emerging from the Schumacher camp.

His management has confirmed he is no longer in a coma, and he has been moved from intensive care in Grenoble to a rehabilitation ward in Lausanne, near his Swiss home.

The Swiss tabloid Blick on Wednesday said the great German travelled the 200 kilometers between France and Switzerland on Monday by ambulance, and Bild newspaper quotes chief neurosurgeon Richard Frackowiak as confirming the transfer went "very, very well".

Ambulance staff reportedly had to surrender their mobile phones prior to the journey, and Schumacher's booking was done under a false name to protect his privacy.

Nonetheless, further details have emerged. Blick said reports that Schumacher has lost a lot of weight are true, but that Schumacher – who was awake for much of the trip – was able to communicate to the ambulance staff by nodding his head.

Robert Belvi, the chief neurologist at a Barcelona university hospital, said the latest developments in the Schumacher story are positive.

"Waking from a coma means establishing contact with the environment," he told Spain's AS newspaper, "for instance the patient can respond to simple commands — open or close your eyes, stick out your tongue.

"If he obeys, there is a clear communication between the brain and the environment. Coming out of coma really is a very good prognosis.

"Schumacher has answered the first question: is he awake or in a vegetative state. Now we have to see where the recovery goes, and hopefully it is to 100 per cent.

"It's difficult to see the same person as before, in terms of language, movement. This all depends on the injuries he has suffered.

"But when a patient has woken up, things usually go very fast. The first three months will decide what is Schumacher's pace of recovery and what the lasting injuries will be," Dr Belvi added.

World champion Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher's former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg this week have both said they do not plan to visit Schumacher at this stage.

"That would not be inappropriate," Rosberg told Bild, "as I'm not in his immediate circle of friends."

But he tipped Schumacher to eventually win his toughest battle.

"I remember one of his last races, in Austin, he was still flat out on every lap even though we were fighting for tenth place or something," the German recalled.

"Then he sat down with us for a two-hour debriefing. After what he achieved in his career, you could forgive him for doing something else, but not him.

"That's why I know that if anyone can fight back from this, it's Schumi," added Rosberg.

So, for now, the Mercedes stickers are staying on the team's championship-leading 2014 car.

"The Schumi sticker will stay on the car as long as Michael is fighting his difficult fight," confirmed team boss Toto Wolff.

Title rivals take 'mind games' into Austria
(GMM) The psychological battle between title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is now racing into Austria.

The war between the Mercedes stars imploded in Monaco, where Rosberg won, and the German got some more wind in his sails two weeks ago in Canada, where Lewis Hamilton's car failed.

Rosberg, now leading the championship by 22 points after 7 races, said this week it had been crucial to break Briton Hamilton's four-race winning streak.

"If you have those results behind you, like I do now, it gives you that little bit extra, that little bit of an edge, so it does help," he said. "It's important."

Hamilton, however, is determined to fight back.

On social media, adding hashtags like 'never give up' and 'let's go', he has been posting photos of himself training in the gym, one of them topless as he declared he is "fighting hard to win this championship".

"67kg, down from 73 last year," Hamilton revealed.

On his official website, the 2008 world champion's Austria preview quoted him as saying: "There's a long, long way to go.

"I caught up before and I can catch up again. It's going to take another four wins to make the difference so I'm going to do my best to get those results," said Hamilton.

Beating Vettel 'says a lot about me' – Ricciardo
(GMM) While the Mercedes duo tussle for title spoils, a very different battle is raging within Red Bull.

World champion for the last four seasons consecutively, Sebastian Vettel is now fighting merely to be the top dog within his own team, following the arrival of the surprisingly imposing Daniel Ricciardo.

In Canada two weeks ago, the 24-year-old Australian stepped it up yet another notch, securing his first career win, and Red Bull's first in 2014.

"It's fun," the always-grinning Ricciardo told Austria's APA news agency on Wednesday.

"I'm learning all the time, not just from Seb but from myself. It's a big challenge when your teammate is a four-time world champion, so if I can beat him, it says a lot about me," he explained.

It has been reported in recent days not only that Ricciardo has had the 2015 option in his contract already picked up by Red Bull, but that the team would also like to keep him on board for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Ricciardo smiled that the opening seven races of 2014 have been "just fine" for his career.

"I think even Seb enjoys it," he said. "For many years he had Mark (Webber) as his teammate, now it's a new challenge. We drive hard against each other but also with a lot of respect.

"If Red Bull wants me to stay," said Ricciardo, "then I am more than happy to. They've done so much for my career. Hopefully I can give them a world championship.

"To do it with them, as Seb did – starting as a junior and working his way up – would be the greatest achievement."

While some have been keen to say Ricciardo has toppled Vettel from his perch, other well-placed insiders are less sure.

Webber, Ricciardo's countryman and predecessor, has hailed the Perth-born star's season but he also warns that Vettel cannot be so easily written off.

"In his (Ricciardo's) first four or five months he has done really well," he told Fairfax Media, "but Seb has had a tough run with reliability.

"You (should) measure them across the course of a few years and see how they go, because the season has been underway for five minutes in reality.

"Daniel couldn't have done much more though," added Webber.

With a similar assessment of their battle so far is Dr Helmut Marko, the architect of Red Bull's driver program.

"They are at eye-level," he is quoted by Speed Week.

"It's always been the same with us — two strong drivers in the team who are treated equally. But the current image has been distorted by technical problems that have mainly hit Sebastian."

However, Marko also admits that Vettel has struggled with motivation in 2014.

"As a four-time world champion, you come with high expectations, so when you go to the first test and find you have no power from the engine, it's hard to digest," said the outspoken Austrian.

Vettel, who was told by Marko to "raise your game", has also had to admit that his latest title defense has not been ideal.

"Many things this year are different to the past and for me unfortunately it has not been very good so far," he said at an event in Vienna on Wednesday. "I have had major problems with the car.

"As a driver you always want to get the best from yourself and of course also be in front of your teammate, but our real aim is to catch up to the front," added Vettel.

At the same time, Ricciardo is riding the crest of a wave that took him to the very top of the podium in Canada.

"Taking points off Mercedes in Canada was fantastic," said the Australian, "but realistically they are still the strongest at the moment. We are a bit dependent on their bad luck to close the gap.

"Maybe we can be faster by the end of the season, but maybe the championship would have been decided a long way before that," Ricciardo acknowledged.

"This year it (the title) will be difficult. Hopefully next year we'll be in a better position. We'll see how it goes," he said. "I'll be ready."

F1 figures in crucial meetings before Austria GP
(GMM) Crucial talks about the future of formula one are speeding ahead.

Between the Canadian and Austrian grands prix, team bosses, FIA president Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone reportedly got together for meetings in London.

It was about finding urgent cost reduction proposals that bridge the divide between F1's most competitive teams and the second half of the grid, who are angry about the lack of cooperation from their more powerful rivals.

Any proposals that got a majority vote on Wednesday will be presented to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in its Munich meeting on June 26.

By then, time will be up for any other meaningful cost-saving for 2015, as post July 1, only rules with an almost-impossible unanimous vote can be introduced for next year.

According to Italy's Autosprint, only two major rule changes are likely next year.

The first that has reportedly been voted through is the shakeup of the grand prix weekend format, with Thursday's media activities and Friday morning practice both axed.

"The idea came up, let's not do the Friday and save engine and gearbox miles — it's about one (less) engine a year," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Sky.

"And that is, if not (a saving of) millions, it's at least a million or a million and a half," he said.

Autosprint said the F1 weekend from 2015 will now begin late on a Friday, with two 45 minute practice sessions, separated by a half-hour break.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean is supportive.

"As long as there's a grand prix and qualifying session, that's the main thing!" said the Frenchman.

Another proposal voted for in London will force teams to keep a single engine-gearbox-rear suspension layout attached to the race chassis for the entire race weekend.

It is also rumored that, at the meeting, Ferrari was chided for its latest quit threat, while declining television audiences and restless sponsors were also discussed.

Tax tribunal turns down McLaren 'spy fine' claim
McLaren have lost a claim that a record 32 million pound ($51.33 million) fine the Formula One team paid after a 2007 spying controversy should be tax deductible.

Britain's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said in a statement on Wednesday that an Upper Tribunal, a superior tax court, had ruled in their favor, overturning a 2012 ruling at a first tier hearing that found for McLaren.

"We’re very pleased the Upper Tribunal agrees that the fine should not be given tax relief, which supports our view that most fines are not allowable as deductions against trading income," said Jim Harra, HMRC Director General of Business Tax.

McLaren had argued that the fine, originally set at $100 million but reduced by the loss of revenue resulting from being stripped of all their points in the constructors' championship, was "connected" with its trade and should be exempt from Corporation Tax.
Government officials had claimed that the "illicit gathering" of information was not a part of the team's trading activities.

"McLaren Group is a growing UK company, which provides high-quality employment and substantial tax revenue. We are disappointed by the result of the tribunal and will consider the options open to us," said a McLaren spokesperson.

"As a UK-registered company, McLaren will continue to comply will all relevant legislation."

The fine was imposed by Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation, under Max Mosley after a dossier of Ferrari data was found in the possession of the team's then-chief designer Mike Coughlan. Reuters

'Alternatives' to Renault do exist for Red Bull – Mateschitz
(GMM) Red Bull will decide after its home Austrian grand prix this weekend if it will continue with Renault power into the future.

That is the claim of team owner and supremo Dietrich Mateschitz, in a wide-ranging interview with the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung ahead of the first grand prix at his very own Red Bull Ring.

Team figures recently played down speculation Red Bull could dump struggling Renault and switch to another engine supplier, saying it is "100 per cent" certain the final Adrian Newey-penned RB11 will have a French-made V6.

But billionaire Mateschitz seems to have a different view.

When asked about world champion Sebastian Vettel's recent derogatory description of the current Renault-powered Red Bull, Mateschitz said on Friday: "When he said 'cucumber', he was talking about the engine or the entire power unit of our car.

"He has a point," said the low-profile Austrian.

"The car itself is excellent, and also strategically no mistakes are being made. Sebastian knows that too."

Recently, Dr Helmut Marko said Red Bull's upper management would sit down this weekend in Austria and make a 'final report' about the team's progress in the wake of Renault's disastrous early form in 2014 and subsequent recovery.

Mateschitz confirmed on Friday: "There will be this final report.

"And then we will decide if there is still potential development in the existing engine, or whether we need to consider a new development in order to reach Mercedes' standard."

Previously, however, Red Bull officials have played down the possibility of a Renault split, as F1's only other engine suppliers are arch rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.

But there have been rumors linking Red Bull with Volkswagen, or a potential move to build a bespoke 'Red Bull' turbo engine — perhaps in the outfit's forthcoming Newey-led 'Advanced Technology Centre'.

When told there are no real alternatives to Renault, Mateschitz insisted: "There are always alternatives, of course.

"But I don't see Red Bull using a customer Mercedes engine. Because Mercedes wants to be world champion not just this year but also in the next few years."

Finally, Mateschitz gave his tip for the winner of the football world cup, and the F1 world championship.

"When Messi is on top form, then it's Argentina," he said. "And in formula one, Lewis Hamilton."

F1 abandons short GP weekend idea – report
(GMM) F1 failed to make significant cost-saving progress at a meeting on Wednesday, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.

Earlier, it was reported that the F1 Commission – involving the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone, the teams and other key stakeholders – voted through the proposal to cut Friday morning practice from next year's race weekend format.

But German correspondent Michael Schmidt reveals otherwise.

"The shorter GP weekend failed," he wrote on Friday, "due to opposition from the (race) organizers and the big teams that had earlier agreed."

And that's not the only proposal that hit the dust at Ecclestone's Biggin Hill airport, Schmidt explained.

"With one exception," he said, "every proposal was rejected by the 26-member panel."

The proposed ban on tire warmers was another victim of Wednesday's meeting, but Pirelli has offered to pay teams that run its logo on the blankets next year EUR 200,000 each.

So, the only cost-cutting done for 2015 and beyond was in the already tightly-restricted area of testing.

All pre-season testing will now take place in Europe, as Bahrain was ruled too expensive a destination.

The eight days of in-season testing has been reduced to four in 2015, with two days reserved for young drivers.

And in 2016, winter testing will shrink from twelve to just eight days, with a total in-season testing ban to once again be enforced.

A team insider is quoted as saying: "Once again we have failed to save hardly anything, but at least the crazy idea of the shorter weekend is gone."

Leave a Reply