Latest F1 news in brief – Friday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Lauda furious, seeks revenge

    Lotus hits back after Renault pay claims

  • Smaller teams less committed to F1 – Ecclestone
  • Pirelli could ease new 'conservative' approach
  • Lauda furious as Red Bull drop name from F1 circuit
  • Turning up F1's volume 'absurd' – Minardi
  • Renault admits teams could run out of engines
  • 'Something wrong' with original chassis – Vettel
  • Coulthard has fond memories of Monaco New
  • Red Bull set to retain Ricciardo New
  • No need for budget cap says Ecclestone – With new engines manufacturers prove money is limitless New

Lotus hits back after Renault pay claims
(GMM) Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez has hit out at Renault, after the F1 engine supplier revealed some of its customers are behind in payments.

Although Renault chief Jean-Michel Jalinier's comments in Barcelona also triggered rumors about the future of Caterham, suspicion also fell on Lotus, who last year were famously late to pay Kimi Raikkonen.

But driver Romain Grosjean was also not paid by struggling Lotus in 2013, although the Frenchman said last month he kept the problem quiet.

"I never opened my mouth in front of the media because it was my own business, my personal thing," he said.

Indeed, team owner Lopez has now hit back at Renault for suggesting some teams have failed to pay for their new turbo V6 engines this season.

"I said to them if they are going to say things, then name the team that is an issue," he is quoted by the Daily Mail.

"Don't just say 'teams' and then expect people to make their own judgments.

"If there is (a team that has not paid), it must be somebody else, but I'm not even sure there is, to be honest with you," Lopez added.

Smaller teams less committed to F1 – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has hit back at criticism of F1's new 'Strategy Group'.

The decision-making group features only six of the sport's eleven competing teams — powerful Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren, the fourth-placed in 2013 Lotus and, for historical reasons, Williams.

But after plans for budget caps were recently scrapped, the smaller teams angrily hit back by claiming they have been "disenfranchised".

They have even questioned the legality of the Strategy Group against European anti-competition laws.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone, however, has justified the exclusion of the smaller teams Sauber, Force India, Marussia and Caterham.

"There are four teams that are not in the Strategy Group and why not?" the F1 chief executive told business journalist Christian Sylt.

"Because the people that are have committed to racing in formula one to 2020 and have put up sensible guarantees if they don't," Ecclestone is quoted by the Independent.

The small teams obviously take issue with that view.

"The voice of Caterham does not count as much as the voice of Ferrari," Caterham chief Cyril Abiteboul acknowledged in Barcelona last weekend, "but it doesn't mean that we cannot be part of the discussion, at least for the sake of transparency."

Pirelli could ease new 'conservative' approach
(GMM) Pirelli has admitted it may ease its newly conservative approach to formula one.

Initially tasked by Bernie Ecclestone to spice up the racing action, the Italian marque endured an horrific 2013, mired by exploding tires and hefty criticism.

So with the arrival of the new high-torque V6 engines for 2014, motor sport chief Paul Hembery admits Pirelli "took a bit of a step back" this season.

"We were very aggressive in previous seasons, not only to create a strong strategy challenge but also an engineering challenge for the teams," he told F1's official website.

"That worked for some — and maybe didn't work for others."

Until now, Pirelli's new approach has at least taken some of the pressure off the official tire supplier, which Hembery admits he is happy about.

But the criticism might now be creeping back in.

In Barcelona, Force India driver Sergio Perez was highly critical of Pirelli, claiming overly conservative tires are contributing to the "embarrassing" problem of F1 being challenged for pace by the GP2 cars.

"Hopefully, Pirelli will listen and react also to the fans to make the races more interesting," said the Mexican.

However, Hembery's initial reaction to Perez was to say that the "pathetic" comments were just an "excuse".

But a more detailed look at the Spanish grand prix might reveal some truth to Perez's concerns.

Last year, after five races, there had been 253 overtaking maneuvers, according to Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.

Now, the tally stands at just 156.

Hembery is now sounding more open to easing Pirelli's more conservative approach later in 2014.

"Maybe sometimes we will see during the season – as the cars improve – that probably some of our choices are a bit conservative," he admitted.

"As they reduce the amount of wheelspin and the amount of sliding, that means that there is less problem from the tire overheating — and maybe we have to review our choices for the season going forward once we understand the effects of the rate of development of the cars."

Lauda furious as Red Bull drop name from F1 circuit
(GMM) Niki Lauda has hit out at Red Bull for dropping his name from a corner at the returning Austrian grand prix venue.

Now called the Red Bull Ring, the former A1-Ring was demolished and totally rebuilt by the energy drinks company, and next month it will host its first grand prix since 2003.

Prior to the Red Bull takeover, one of the corners at the A1-Ring was called the Niki Lauda Kurve, in honor of the Austrian great and triple world champion.

Now, the same corner has been renamed Pirelli. Also gone is the Gerhard Berger Kurve, replaced by Wurth, a German tool company.

"I'm very disappointed," Lauda told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"I can only presume it is because I am now at Mercedes and we are beating Red Bull," he added.

So far, the Jochen Rindt Kurve – named after the posthumous 1970 world champion – has survived the Red Bull Ring's search for sponsor dollars.

But correspondent Gerald Pototschnig said even that corner could be renamed if a sponsor makes an attractive enough offer.

"As punishment," the angry Lauda said, "Mercedes will be happy to celebrate a one-two in Spielberg."

Turning up F1's volume 'absurd' – Minardi
(GMM) Gian Carlo Minardi has slammed as "absurd" F1's efforts to turn up the volume of the new turbo V6 engines.

Mercedes fitted an unseemly, trombone-shaped exhaust to its car at this week's Barcelona test, but it failed to deliver the sound boost that many in F1 – including Bernie Ecclestone and race promoter Ron Walker – are seeking.

Minardi, the founder of Faenza based team Toro Rosso's original guise, is not impressed.

"I find it absurd that the focus is on the noise, when it definitely is not the primary problem," he said.

66-year-old Minardi said teams should stop the efforts to turn up the volume and focus instead on being "more competitive".

"In Spain we saw a gap of 49 seconds between Mercedes and the first pursuer, Red Bull. An abyss," he told his official website.

Indeed, many are predicting that Mercedes' advantage is so big that the German team could go on to win every single race on the 19-grand prix 2014 calendar.

A 100 per cent winning record is unprecedented in F1 history, but even Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda acknowledges that it is a possibility in 2014.

"At the moment it looks like it," the F1 great told Osterreich newspaper.

"I don't want to sound arrogant, but I am calm," said Lauda. "I think if you have the pace advantage that we had at a circuit like Barcelona, then the others need at least four to five races to catch up."

And he thinks new championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who has won the last four grands prix on the trot, is likely to beat Nico Rosberg to the 2014 title.

"Lewis is in a league that I have rarely seen," said Lauda. "Flawless. Beating him at the moment I would say is almost impossible, but thanks to his tactical approach I think Nico can get closer."

Renault admits teams could run out of engines
(GMM) Some Renault-powered F1 drivers could run out of engines later in 2014, the French supplier has admitted.

Renault chief Rob White said the French marque's recovery from its early-season struggle for power and reliability is still ongoing.

"At the first test we were miles off. We were in a crisis," he admitted to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, "but we didn't panic.

"We set up a plan to close the gap. Since then we have made progress but unfortunately not quite enough," White acknowledged.

And those efforts to end the crisis have had a price, he added.

"Within the individual teams, we have consumed more components within the power unit than we had planned. It means that the teams are at different development cycles.

"For some it might be tough to stay within the allowed five units (per driver per season)," White said.

Although world champion Red Bull's struggles have had the highest public profile, correspondent Michael Schmidt claims Lotus is in fact the worst-affected Renault team, followed by Caterham.

Despite the current problems, however, White is confident Renault can continue to close the gap — and he insists the horse power advantage held by Mercedes is not even a target too far.

"There is nothing in our engine concept that prevents us from being the best," he said.

However, it has been said that Mercedes stole a march in the fundamental layout of its V6 concept, uniquely situating the turbine and air compressors at either end of the 'power unit'.

White insisted: "It's not that we didn't think of arranging it that way. We don't consider it the match-winner."

Renault's F1 boss Jean-Michel Jalinier agrees: "We have not had any great eye-opening experience in which we had to admit to ourselves that we were caught out."

Rather, White said Renault's 2014 problems have been because "we were late to reach our goals, or because we underestimated the risks or overestimated our capacity to solve the problems in time".

'Something wrong' with original chassis – Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has admitted there was "something wrong" with his original 2014 chassis.

After Barcelona, where the German impressed at the wheel of Red Bull's winter testing monocoque, it was reported that the team had discovered a 'bend' in the car with which Vettel struggled during the first four races of 2014.

Red Bull immediately denied the report.

But the story has now been repeated by the major German daily Bild-Zeitung.

Vettel is quoted as saying: "I knew there was something wrong. I had lost all trust under braking for the corners and accelerating out of them."

Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull's outspoken director, does not deny Vettel's claim that something was "not right" with the car Vettel originally dubbed 'Suzie'.

"The chassis was not really bent, but in some places it just was not one hundred per cent right."

Marko said Vettel will stay at the wheel of the winter testing chassis for the time being, "but soon he will get a new one".

Reigning quadruple world champion Vettel is not even ruling out his first win of the season next weekend in Monaco.

"At Monaco you don't need as much engine power as you do at other circuits," he is quoted by SID news agency.

"Maybe some rain could help us as well. There is always a chance to win," added Vettel.

Coulthard has fond memories of Monaco
David, you live in Monaco and your first Monaco GP was in 1995.

What is your best memory of the event?
I had never raced in Monaco in Formula 3, so the first time that I drove the circuit was in an F1 car, the Williams FW17. After the first day of practice I was 16th or 17th in a car capable of winning grands prix. I was in shock because it was so difficult to drive in Monaco. However, with a bit of research and a good third practice on Saturday morning, I qualified third. Unfortunately, there was a coming-together at the first corner with Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. The race was red-flagged and I had to take the T-car, which was set up for Damon Hill. In the rush to get it ready the Renault engineer had not reset the throttle pedal. You normally have 40mm of travel between 0% throttle and a 100% throttle but because he had not re-set it I only had 20mm. Imagine controlling 750hp with 20mm of throttle travel. I was thinking: “Gosh, Damon, you have so much more power than I have. No wonder he was quicker." But it was just the software. I ran around in third place until I had a gearbox failure.

If you had to pick one part of the track as your favorite, which part would that be?
Monaco is about three stages. The first is simply getting through the first corner. If you can do that you’re half way to building a lap. I know it sounds ridiculous, because it’s just one corner, but it’s a corner where a lot of drivers get greedy and you can easily crash there. You have to have discipline. Casino Square, going over the rise, is the next tricky part, so you really have to have the confidence to keep the car flat out as you come over the crest. The rest of the section until you come out of the tunnel is straightforward. However, braking as you come over the rise and out of the tunnel is tricky, as I found out in my last year with Red Bull Racing. In qualifying I crashed on the right hand side on the corner, as the car goes light over the rise because it’s bumpy and because you’re turning slightly to the right before turning left at the chicane.

Do you have a favorite overtaking move that you remember?
I don’t remember overtaking anyone! I remember being on pole there, winning a couple of times and I remember celebrating Red Bull’s first podium, with the superman cape.

Do you still have that cape?
I do, indeed. I still have the suits as well. I think it’s on a mannequin in the apartment in London.

Out of the wins you had, which one is your favorite and why?
My second win, in 2002, because it was a pure victory. In the first one, in 2000, Michael [Schumacher] broke his suspension so it was slightly inherited, but in 2002 I led from the start, dealt with the graining phase of the tires, managed to push when they cleaned up, kept a lead through the pit stops and kept it tidy.

If you had to sum that race up in three words for a driver what would you say?
Ultimate driving challenge.

Red Bull set to retain Ricciardo
Following Daniel Ricciardo's solid start to the season given Red Bull's woes, Christian Horner says it is "highly likely" the Aussie will be staying put next year.

Although Ricciardo joined Red Bull Racing on a long-term contract, that would have meant nothing if he hadn't been able to rise to the challenge.

However, he has done that just fine.

Five races in, the Aussie has already achieved one podium while on two occasions his superior pace has resulted in Red Bull asking reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel to move over for him.

His performances have led to team boss Horner stating that it is "highly unlikely" Ricciardo won't retain his seat for next season.

"We have always believed in stability and continuity," Horner told Autosport.

"Daniel is on a long-term contract with the team and it will be highly unlikely he will be anywhere else next year – unless of course Ferrari are chasing him as well [as rumors it is pursuing Adrian Newey]."

The Brit added that Ricciardo and Vettel are proving to be a good partnership with the duo working "extremely well" together.

"He has done a great job this year and he is so calm in the car. He continues to impress us with his speed and his approach.

"He is enjoying what he is doing, and you never see him not smiling. It is a pleasure to have him in the team, and the two guys are working extremely well together.

"I cannot speak highly enough of what Daniel has done in the first five races." Planet F1

With engines every race fan hates, at four times the cost of the engine they replace, the manufacturers have proven they have plenty of money to burn and waste

No need for budget cap says Ecclestone – With new engines manufacturers prove money is limitless
Bernie Ecclestone says that Formula One teams do not need a budget cap but should instead learn to spend less according to an article in the Independent by Christian Sylt.

A £120m cap on team budgets was due to be introduced in 2015 but was blocked in April by the Strategy Group, a body comprising Ecclestone, the FIA and six leading teams. "I don't think they need a budget cap. The people who don't need a budget cap will find their way round it," says Ecclestone.

The formation of the Strategy Group last year, and its recent decision to drop the cap, angered F1's smaller teams which are not members and would have benefited most from the restriction on spending.

On April 10 the four smallest teams – Marussia, Caterham, Sauber, and Force India – wrote a letter to FIA president Jean Todt in which they expressed their unhappiness at the cost cap being dropped and suggested that the Strategy Group breaches European competition law.

It said "the EU Commission addresses competition policy in the sporting market place by using certain criteria to acknowledge that sports businesses exhibit special characteristics that distinguish them from other generic businesses and as such special rules are allowed to apply that otherwise would not be acceptable under competition law. Formula One enjoys such a distinction in the way that it operates."

"We believe that the actions of the F1 Strategy Group and its acceptance by the FIA and the CRH go against many of these special characteristics and brings into question the very basis of some of the rules of competition that are being relied upon by the sport."

Ecclestone says that the Strategy Group is justified on the grounds of on track performance. "There are four teams that are not in the Strategy Group and why not? Because the people that are have committed to racing in Formula One to 2020 and have put up sensible guarantees if they don't. The people that aren't in it didn't have the performance anyway, even if they could put the money up. The only people in there are because we do everything in Formula One by performance and how long they have been going.

The letter from the teams led to a meeting at the start of May involving Todt, Ecclestone and all 11 teams. The leading outfits proposed cost cutting measures including a tire warmer ban, the return of active suspension and more standard parts. It didn't appease Todt who said afterwards "what was proposed? It was a joke."

Ecclestone says that one way to keep costs down would have been to scrap the new V6 engines which have been introduced this year and have been widely criticized for being quieter than their V8 predecessors. Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault spent around £300m developing them and they cost other teams up to £15m annually.

"Tell me, what was the idea of the cap? To keep costs down. So we put this engine in and it costs four times more than the other one and costs the manufacturers a hell of a lot of money," says Ecclestone. He may have a point.

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