Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Alonso hints at souring relationship with Ferrari
  • Kolles not surprised Ricciardo beating Vettel
  • Monaco to be Kvyat's first street race
  • Ill Ecclestone will not miss Monaco
  • Newey moves to end Ferrari switch rumors
  • Driver 'crash' discussed at Mercedes party
  • Maldonado denies Venezuelan backing to end
  • Monaco Grand Prix – New Monaco surface 'a big issue'
  • More Than 75% Welcome Formula One's Return To Spielberg, Austria

Alonso hints at souring relationship with Ferrari
(GMM) Fernando Alonso on Wednesday added fuel to speculation his patience with Ferrari is at an end.

Already the best paid in F1, the Spaniard was earlier this week also hailed as "perhaps the best driver" on the grid by the Mercedes-Benz chairman, Dieter Zetsche.

Alonso's reply, given to Spanish reporters in Monaco on Wednesday, will only fuel rumors the 32-year-old is pushing for a change of teams, having failed to win a title in red and arguably losing his 'number 1' status in 2014 following the arrival of world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

When asked about Zetsche's praise, Alonso answered: "I don't know.

"It is always something good when good things are spoken about you, and the truth is that I am grateful.

"But it is interesting and it really seems curious to me that these types of things, this sort of praise, always comes from the other teams, from other people not from my own inner circle," Alonso is quoted by the Spanish sports newspaper AS.

The comment would seem to suggest a further souring in the relationship between Alonso and Ferrari.

Indeed, in Monaco, Alonso also denied that the arrival of new team boss Marco Mattiacci has so far had any impact on the struggling Maranello team.

And "I don't think it's going to happen soon," he told reporters.

"He's still learning about the team situation, the formula one environment, the F1 weekends," Alonso added.

"There is no change I feel in the qualifying, the races, the meetings, the work in the factory. Everything is as it was before."

Given Ferrari's situation, and Alonso's five-year wait for a title-winning car, the signs are that he has lost patience with the Italian team.

He does not expect Mercedes' dominance to be challenged this weekend.

"Monaco is a special track," Alonso is quoted by Marca newspaper, "so things could be a little different, but they have been first and second in every race with an advantage.

"We must not think that Mercedes will not dominate here," he insisted.

Kolles not surprised Ricciardo beating Vettel
(GMM) Red Bull team figures like Christian Horner, Dietrich Mateschitz and Helmet Marko have all said they were "surprised" by Daniel Ricciardo's pace so far in 2014.

Perhaps that is because the fresh-faced Australian's form casts a pall over the recent achievements of the team's quadruple world champion, Sebastian Vettel.

Indeed, Ricciardo's first ever F1 team boss, Dr Colin Kolles, insists he is not surprised at all.

With Red Bull's backing, Kolles – who also knows Vettel well from his days in the F3 scene – gave Ricciardo his first seat at now-defunct HRT in 2011.

"Sebastian is extremely experienced despite his young age, but Daniel is also extremely talented," Kolles told the German newspaper Die Welt.

"Sebastian has more pressure on him as a four-time champion, an obligation to win, while Daniel despite his discipline and seriousness is a completely relaxed character.

"That's a tremendous advantage over Sebastian," he said.

"When I first heard that Daniel would be driving for Red Bull, this scenario was completely clear.

"As I said, I know both drivers, and Daniel is at least equivalent to Vettel at a very high level. So what has happened has not surprised me.

"Both are very talented, disciplined and aggressive. Both are of the new generation after Michael Schumacher, Raikkonen, Alonso.

"But Daniel due to his character and his situation is completely carefree with these cars and the new regulations, which is his greatest asset.

"When he was at HRT I could see he was a natural talent, a really exceptional driver. For me he is a future world champion, although hardly anyone except me noticed it at the time.

"No one in F1 respects a team like HRT, so just us and Red Bull and a few insiders knew how good Daniel was."

Asked if Vettel will ultimately reclaim his top status at Red Bull, Kolles answered: "No one knows.

"I can only say that it will not be easy for him, and Daniel will have his fun, as will the audience.

"He (Ricciardo) is a gift for formula one, and I see the duel as very exciting, because it is completely open."

Monaco to be Kvyat's first street race
(GMM) Daniil Kvyat says he is taking a "step in the dark" this weekend at Monaco.

While others in the Principality are soaking up the glamour of the 'jewel' in F1's crown, the Russian 20-year-old is thinking about his very first laps of the challenging layout.

Not only that, Sergio Perez said on Wednesday that, with the lower-grip 2014 cars and the high-torque turbo engines, Monaco will be even tougher than usual this year.

"We will see drivers make many mistakes," said the Mexican. "It will definitely be more exciting than in recent years."

'Exciting' may not be the right word for Kvyat, who began his F1 career with Toro Rosso this year as a teenager.

And he stepped into F1 straight from GP3, a lower-tier formula that does not race at Monaco.

"Monaco for me will be an absolutely new experience," said Kvyat.

"Not only have I never raced here, I have never even been on a visit. In fact, I have never raced on any street circuit.

"It will really be a step into the unknown for me," he said, explaining that he has spent only half a day driving the layout on the simulator.

Ill Ecclestone will not miss Monaco
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone will not skip this weekend's Monaco grand prix.

On Tuesday, the judge in the F1 supremo's corruption trial in Munich adjourned the case because Ecclestone, 83, is suffering from a bad cold.

"I have a terrible cold," Ecclestone admitted to Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for the Swiss newspaper Blick.

"But I have to get over it, because on Wednesday I have an important court date and on Thursday I am going to Monaco," he 'croaked', according to Benoit.

Indeed, the diminutive Briton was back in court on Wednesday, telling judge Peter Noll that he was feeling somewhat better.

Newey moves to end Ferrari switch rumors
(GMM) Adrian Newey has played down reports he is thinking about a switch to Ferrari.

Two weeks ago in Barcelona, F1's most highly paid and rated engineer sounded equivocal amid rumors Ferrari is prepared to 'break the bank' to lure him from Red Bull.

But in a short statement ahead of the Monaco grand prix, Newey said: "I remain committed to Red Bull for the foreseeable future."

World champion Sebastian Vettel was also asked about Newey on Wednesday, and while stressing that Red Bull wants him to stay, he also said the Milton-Keynes based team is not a one-man band.

"He is one of the key people in the team," said the German. "There are other people too.

"It is wrong to give the credit only to Adrian, as he would tell you himself.

"We like him in our team, so yes," added Vettel, when asked if he wants Newey to stay.

"It's a story in the end. How much truth there is in it, we may find out, we may not."

Driver 'crash' discussed at Mercedes party
(GMM) A Mercedes 'get-together' did not go unnoticed in the Monaco harbor on Wednesday.

The scene was former F1 driver Gerhard Berger's luxury boat, but on board were Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, fellow bosses Paddy Lowe and Toto Wolff, and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

So far in 2014, the silver-clad party has been utterly dominant.

Lauda said the Monaco get-together was at his expense.

"This is my thank you for the great performance of the team so far," Auto Motor und Sport quotes the triple world champion as saying.

But it is also believed Lauda took the time to assure Hamilton and Rosberg that they can continue to go wheel-to-wheel against one another at the grands prix.

At the same time, the F1 legend knows all too well that "Eventually it will go wrong".

"If the two continue to do their races ahead of the rest of the field, the probability of a crash increases," Lauda acknowledged.

Mercedes is treading a fine line, between ensuring it capitalizes on its massive investments and subsequent dominance, and not turning off bored fans.

But allowing Hamilton and Rosberg to go at it runs the risk of an Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost-style personality collision.

Indeed, recent comments by Hamilton have reminded some of something Prost said at the height of the Senna rivalry: that the great Brazilian didn't just want to beat him, that he wanted to "humiliate" the Frenchman as well.

And Hamilton has told F1's official website that, because of his upbringing, he is "hungrier" for success than Rosberg.

"I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad's apartment," he said.

"Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things — so the hunger is different," Hamilton added.

And when asked what his ideal result on Sunday would be, he admitted: "Ha, finishing first, Fernando finishing second and Sebastian finishing third."

When asked about the recent trend of their on and off-track rivalry, Rosberg said on Wednesday: "I don't know what he (Hamilton) said so I'm not going to comment."

What is more open for comment is the precise extent of Mercedes' dominance in 2014. Hamilton argues that his duel with Rosberg is more exciting than Sebastian Vettel's dominance over the past few years.

"The good thing is that unlike Sebastian, who was leading by 30-40 seconds each race, it's not the case here, I'm racing my teammate," he said.

"So I actually do have competition and I'm grateful for that."

But Vettel insists that Red Bull's gap over the field was never as great as the advantage currently enjoyed by the silver cars.

"We have never been in that situation," he said.

"We are five races in and I don't think we ever started a season with five wins," said Vettel.

Maldonado denies Venezuelan backing to end
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado has denied his sponsorship backing is ending.

Early this week, the new Venezuelan sports minister Antonio Alvarez warned the country will not spend "one more dollar" on motor racing.

But until now, 29-year-old Maldonado, famously close to Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez, has been powered by state millions through the oil company PDVSA.

For 2014, that lucrative backing was moved from Williams to Lotus, where Maldonado has endured a nightmare start to his fourth season on the grid.

But in Monaco on Wednesday, he denied that his PDVSA-fuelled F1 adventure is now ending.

"There was a very big misunderstanding in the media," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

"PDVSA gave no statement, (they) said nothing. It was the minister of sport who made the statement that it (the government) will cut the sponsorship of motor sport, which was already known.

"And it is not going to cut, it already did cut since last year, and with good reason because we know that some drivers stole money from the ministry of sports.

"How can we expect the government to follow this sport when drivers steal?" said Maldonado.

But he said any specific question about PDVSA's involvement in F1 should be directed to the oil company, and to the recipient of the sponsorship, Lotus.

"It's hard to know what will happen," he explained, "because firstly PDVSA have said nothing and, second, I am a driver with no personal support; the sponsorship is for the team."

Maldonado also said he has been unaffected by recent criticism of his driving in 2014, with fans on social media often ridiculing his regular involvement in incidents.

"At least someone is talking," he smiled. "I'm used to having a lot of criticism.

"It's ok. We live in a free world so everyone can say whatever."

Monaco Grand Prix – New Monaco surface 'a big issue'
A number of the sport's leading stars have already suggested that the harder tires and increased torque of 2014's cars will make F1's blue-riband event tougher than usual.

But Button says fresh complications are also going to be caused by newly laid asphalt that has been put down from the exit of Casino corner until the start of the tunnel.

He reckons that F1 could face a repeat of the headaches it faced in the United States during Austin's inaugural race in 2012 when the new surface provided almost no grip and caused trouble for the entire grid.

"Out of Massenet, from there all the way through the tunnel, it has new asphalt – which we think is probably quite similar to Austin in the first year," explained Button.

"It is going to be very, very low grip. That will be a big issue for everyone to get the tires working.

"The soft tire is going to be tough for everyone to get working – especially the fronts. But the super-soft will be good."

F1 drivers are under no illusions that the scale of the challenge they face in Monaco this weekend will be greater than normal.
Sergio Perez reckons that the characteristics of the 2014 F1 cars mean everyone should brace themselves for a new experience.

"It will be difficult," he said. "I think it will be very interesting for everyone here, for the fans, for the media, for the drivers, and for the teams. It will be a new Monaco – very, very interesting."

Fernando Alonso added that there was a feeling of uncertainty ahead of the first track action.

"This weekend is a question mark for everybody," he said. "The cars have been quite tricky to drive and we arrive to a very special circuit with a unique layout and some risky points.

"We need to see which team can adapt the car a little bit better for here. In a normal circuit an update is worth two or three tenths, but in Monaco it's not so important.

"Confidence in the car can give you half a second or seven tenths. With zero updates, if you have confidence in the car with a good set-up and good preparation you can be a lot better – it's our aim for this weekend." Yahoo Eurosport

More Than 75% Welcome Formula One's Return To Spielberg, Austria
The return of F1 to Spielberg, Austria "is welcomed by more than three-quarters of the Austrian population," according to the KURIER. Just as much, 77%, "have a general interest in F1 racing."

Only one-fifth of those surveyed "is not looking forward to the Austrian F1 Grand Prix."

Those are the results of a survey by Austria-based communication and consulting company Oekonsult. Of the 1,000 people who participated in the survey, 92.4% believe the race "will improve Austria's reputation around the world." Asked if the race is a potential target for terrorists, "two-thirds disagreed."

In addition, Oekonsult boss Joshi Schillhab said that at least 55% "are planning to watch the race on TV." KURIER

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