Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

05/14/14

  • Look at the size of that exhaust!. How silly. A Band-Aid fix for VERY expensive cars, many of which are slower than GP2 cars.

    Ecclestone desperate to cling to F1 power – witness

  • Smedley happy to leave Ferrari wind tunnel
  • Lauda to end up Mercedes driver 'nanny' – Berger
  • Fatigue and frustration explain Vettel struggle – Berger
  • Hamilton wants Mercedes' rivals to catch up
  • F1 gets first look and sound of Merc 'megaphone'
  • McLaren fails to take up Formula One board seat
  • 'Negative' reaction to trumpet exhaust look, sound New
  • Red Bull not interested in Mercedes power New

Ecclestone desperate to cling to F1 power – witness
(GMM) The man jailed for accepting Bernie Ecclestone's alleged bribes depicted the F1 'supremo' on Tuesday as someone desperate to cling to power.

The corruption charges, playing out in a dramatic Munich trial, could end the 83-year-old Briton's long reign over the sport and even see him put in jail.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, formerly in charge of the state-controlled Munich bank BayernLB, is the star witness, and on Tuesday he backed prosecutors' claims that Ecclestone paid up to influence the sale of F1's commercial rights.

"This role (of F1 chief executive) is his life. Of course he wanted to keep it," Gribkowsky, jailed for eight and a half years for accepting $44 million, is quoted by German reports as having told the court.

He said that Ecclestone had once said he would rather "die in a puddle of fuel" than lose his post in control of formula one — an alleged statement that was immediately disputed by the diminutive Briton's lawyers.

Gribkowsky, however, depicted Ecclestone as someone determined to keep running F1, operating in the sport as requiring others to "have no other gods before me".

Interestingly, Gribkowsky did not deny Ecclestone's defense that he was being put under pressure over his personal British tax affairs.

Ecclestone says that is the only reason he paid the 56-year-old German.

"We didn't have anything concrete (about his tax affairs)," Gribkowsky told the court. "It was mainly nuisance value."

He revealed that he was also questioned just weeks ago about Ecclestone's tax affairs by the British authorities.

"I told them what I told this court," said Gribkowsky.

"I didn't have any inside knowledge but I used the issue at the time to put pressure on Ecclestone to make him settle litigation over formula one," he added.

Smedley happy to leave Ferrari wind tunnel
(GMM) Former Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley says it is nice to finally be working in formula one with a wind tunnel that works.

The fabled Italian team's wind tunnel problems are well known, but when asked by Brazil's Totalrace, Smedley initially answered: "I don't like to talk about Ferrari."

Briton Smedley, Felipe Massa's long-time race engineer at Ferrari, joined his Brazilian friend in moving to the Grove based Williams team for 2014.

Smedley, 40, is now Williams' 'head of performance engineering'.

He admitted that a major technical difference between Ferrari and his new employer is that new parts developed in Williams' wind tunnel always work as expected.

"At Williams, the correlation between the wind tunnel and the track is amazing," he said.

"Compared to my previous experience, it is something that has impressed me. Everything we take to the track ends up on the car, so it (the car) really does improve from race to race," added Smedley.

Lauda to end up Mercedes driver 'nanny' – Berger
(GMM) Gerhard Berger has warned Mercedes to expect fireworks between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in 2014.

So far, the relationship between the silver-clad pair has been amiable, but a growing tension was noticeable immediately after Sunday's Spanish grand prix.

It was there that Hamilton finally took the championship lead from his German rival, after defeating Rosberg for the fourth consecutive race.

Former Ferrari and McLaren driver Berger expects the tension to only grow between the pair, particularly with Mercedes not having a close rival at present.

"Formula one is always full of surprises," he told APA news agency.

"But as it looks today, I can hardly imagine that it will not keep going like this," added Berger, referring to Brackley based Mercedes' utter dominance so far this season.

And as the internal fight gets tougher, so too will Mercedes' role in managing the bickering pair, Berger explained.

"It's still early, with everyone getting on well," he said. "But I don't think it will be long before Rosberg and Hamilton clash."

Berger said one problem could be Rosberg, realizing the need to revert to psychological means to unsettle Hamilton.

"Hamilton is maybe the fastest in the field, but he's very emotional," he said. "I think it is possible to put him out of balance.

"Rosberg knows that he must be clever to compensate for the slight advantage Hamilton has with natural speed.

"(Mercedes chairman) Niki (Lauda) will have his hands full soon," he said, perhaps referring to the triple world champion's insistence that team orders will not be imposed between Hamilton and Rosberg.

"I have already told him (Lauda) that he will be like a nanny this year," smiled Berger, a former Toro Rosso co-owner and once BMW's motor sport director.

54-year-old Berger also warned Hamilton not to expect his dominance to go unrivalled by Rosberg in 2014, despite the Briton's run of dominance recently.

"I am sure that with his (Rosberg's) determination and perseverance, he will make Hamilton's life difficult," he said.

Meanwhile, Berger rubbished criticism of this year's new-look F1, including his old friend Dietrich Mateschitz's claim this week that drivers are nursing cars to the checkered flag because they are conserving fuel.

"Nonsense," he insisted. "Just look at Hamilton and Rosberg, driving every lap on the limit."

However, he said he understands reigning world champion Red Bull's frustration.

"The truth is, Mercedes is where they are because they did a very good job. Red Bull did as well, but Renault not as much, so this (criticism) is almost pure frustration."

Fatigue and frustration explain Vettel struggle – Berger
(GMM) Part of Sebastian Vettel's struggle so far in 2014 is "fatigue" after four consecutive world championship triumphs.

That is the view of Gerhard Berger, a former Ferrari and McLaren driver but also someone who knows Vettel well, having given the German his first full-time F1 seat in 2008 when a Toro Rosso co-owner.

So far in 2014, wearing the coveted number '1' on his Red Bull for the fourth consecutive time, Vettel has usually struggled even to match the pace of his fresh-faced new teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

"You have to congratulate Ricciardo," Austrian Berger told APA news agency. "He does an excellent job, and so consistently right from the start which is not something expected."

Behind Ricciardo's shining performances, however, is a Vettel-factor, Berger argued.

"We cannot forget that Vettel has won the championship four times; after four times with this pressure there is a certain fatigue that eventually makes its presence felt.

"Four times you win everything," Berger explained, "and then you get a car that you know you cannot win the race with due to engine performance. This is very hard to deal with.

"Ricciardo is pleased about a podium but Vettel is not interested in third place; he wants to win the world championship," he added.

Red Bull and Vettel have upped their pace recently, but Berger doubts that Mercedes can be challenged this year — and he points the finger mainly at Renault.

"Mercedes has had a great engine for years," he said, "but Red Bull has been able to compensate with Vettel and the aerodynamics.

"If Renault wants to catch up now, they will need to upgrade their budget and their people. We can't forget about the resources that are behind Mercedes," added Berger.

Hamilton wants Mercedes' rivals to catch up (Sure he does, how funny)
(GMM) New championship leader Lewis Hamilton insists he does not want to run away unchallenged with a dominant 2014 title.

The Briton has won the past four grands prix on the trot with a Mercedes car described by some as even more dominant than those at the height of Ferrari's Michael Schumacher era.

But after testing the W05 at the post-race Barcelona test on Tuesday, the 2008 world champion declared that he actually wants competitors like Red Bull to close the gap.

"I hope so. I need competition," he is quoted by Italy's Autosprint.

"At the beginning of the year Nico (Rosberg) and I ran away from the others, but I don't think that will happen in Monaco," said Hamilton.

"Anyway, it doesn't affect my motivation. If I was all alone with a huge advantage every time, maybe (it would). But Nico is always close anyway."

Hamilton also said there are other reasons to tune in to Monaco next weekend.

"It will be interesting," he said, "because the walls are just as close but with the cars this year there will be a lot more oversteer."

It is possible Mercedes is attempting to drum up interest in the 2014 season because utter dominance is rarely a crowd-pleaser.

Indeed, even in the midst of some of Hamilton and Rosberg's battles, the television cameras this year have looked away in search of wheel-to-wheel action elsewhere.

"Interestingly we have seen that," team boss Toto Wolff admitted to the Daily Mail.

But that doesn't mean Mercedes will ease the throttle to let the chasing pack get closer, or invite its silver-clad duo to drive into one another.

"I guess we have to swallow that," said Wolff, "and have a little less average media value because I'd rather take a one-two."

A Mercedes rep holds the Megaphone Exhaust. That ugly thing will be fitted to cars with an ugly nose (below) so the cars look hideous from all angles

F1 gets first look and sound of Merc 'megaphone'
(GMM) The world of F1 will hear Mercedes' 'megaphone' exhaust for the first time early on Wednesday.

The first images of the meter-long, trumpet-like attachment have already emerged, and one of the first to see the volume-boosting device was Bild correspondent Nicola Pohl.

"It is extremely light, about 1.5 kilos," she said, claiming it is made of "mystery" materials. "Before the funnel end there is a small hole."

Pohl and the 'megaphone' can be seen to the right.

It will be fitted to Nico Rosberg's Mercedes when the car is fired up on Wednesday morning at the post-Spanish grand prix test.

Some are looking forward to hearing a 'loud' formula one car once again, following widespread criticism of the milder tone of this year's turbo V6 engines.

Others are not happy F1 is heading down the road of making its highly-sophisticated and 'green' new engines artificially loud.

"It's crazy to talk about making a formula one car louder," former McLaren and Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger told APA news agency.

"The whole discussion is just nonsense."

The governing FIA, however, is so serious it has engaged sound experts to work on the solution with F1's three engine makers Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.

"The FIA have some acoustic consultants who have visited us and have had access to our existing dyno test results, including sound measurements," said Renault's Rob White.

But earlier, White's boss Jean-Michel Jalinier insisted F1 should not be ashamed of its more efficient – and therefore quieter – engine technology.

"You just have to move with the times," he argued, "and it is no longer the time for a V10 or V8 using 60 liters of fuel every 100 kilometers."

Some believe the more docile noise produced by a F1 car in 2014 is a tribute to its brand new and impressive technology.

"It (the 2014 'power unit') uses less energy," said White. "It does so more efficiently so there's less falling out of the back as noise.

"I don't sign up to the opinion they sound horrible. Instead, I feel there is a positive message that has kind of got drowned out."

White told the Daily Mail he is not closing his ears to the calls for more noise, but there are paddock rumblings that Mercedes' rivals are skeptical the 'megaphone' exhaust might add performance to the German team's already-dominant car.

"My short to medium term concern is we mustn't be put in a situation where we take a performance hit relative to our competitors, directly or indirectly as a result of this subject," he admitted.

McLaren fails to take up Formula One board seat
McLaren has turned down the chance to put one of its directors on the board of Formula One according to an article in the Independent by Christian Sylt.

The development is rather ironic given that McLaren's chief executive Ron Dennis has long campaigned that the teams should exercise more control over the sport.

McLaren has won 20 championships since its first race in 1966 and was offered the board seat to acknowledge its historic status. The offer was made in 2012 as part of F1's stalled plans to float on the Singapore stock market. Mercedes' owner Daimler, Ferrari and current F1 champions Red Bull Racing were also offered board seats and they all took them up.

A McLaren spokesman says "it is a right available to us that for various reasons we have chosen not to take up thus far. However, we continue to review the option."

The spokesman would not disclose the reason for the delay but it follows reports in December that Dennis was in talks with Chinese investors about financing a buyout to give him control of the company. McLaren is understood to be worth around £500m and Dennis has a 25% stake in it with 25% in the hands of Saudi tycoon Mansour Ojjeh and 50% owned by Bahrain's Mumtalakat sovereign wealth fund.

"McLaren could have a director if they made their mind up," says F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone. "It was going to be one of the Bahrainis but they haven't got a director at the moment."

There are 16 directors on the F1 board comprising six non-executives, three team representatives, two management and five from controlling shareholder the private equity firm CVC. The non-executives include Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe whilst the teams are represented by Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, Red Bull chief executive Dietrich Mateschitz and Bodo Uebber, chief financial officer of Daimler.

For over a decade Dennis has been demanding that the teams should have more influence in F1. He was one of the leading lights of the Grand Prix World Championship, an initiative launched by several car manufacturers with the aim of starting a rival series. In December 2003 it signed a peace agreement with F1 which entitled it to three board seats and those offered in the float preparations were a legacy of this.

Dennis is one of Ecclestone's oldest adversaries and has fiercely criticized the way that he took over F1's rights after initially managing them on behalf of the teams. As Pitpass reported in 2010, Dennis is quoted in Ecclestone's biography 'Bernie' saying "Bernie effectively stole Formula 1 from us… Some people would say it was brilliant, but in essence it was pretty deceitful because the teams were trying to say 'hold on Bernie we own these rights.'"

Ecclestone put this down to sour grapes and told Pitpass at the time that "it's only when things started to look good and I invested the money and it started to work that they thought maybe they should have done it." Pitpass.com

'Negative' reaction to trumpet exhaust look, sound (F1 steps on its dick again)
(GMM) Mercedes' 'trumpet' exhaust made a questionable debut on Wednesday.

"Looks like Mercedes have put a vuvuzela on the back of their car," Reuters' Alan Baldwin wryly observed.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport 'tweeted' a photo of the protruding appendage.

Questionable aesthetics aside, attention then turned to whether the exhaust extension, also dubbed a 'megaphone' by the press, did indeed turn up the volume.

"So far no good news concerning the sound," reported German television RTL's Florian Koenig.

BBC correspondent Andrew Benson agreed that the initial reaction from fans was "almost totally negative".

The German journalist Bianca Garloff opined: "In my view, the new sound is even worse", while Sky's Rachel Brookes reported she heard "no audible difference".

Audio footage of the trumpet-equipped Nico Rosberg's W05 can be heard here.

Speed Week correspondent Mathias Brunner said the 'trumpet' was removed from Rosberg's car for the afternoon session.

Red Bull not interested in Mercedes power
(GMM) Red Bull says it is not interested in being powered by Mercedes.

Unhappy with its underpowered Renault V8 a few years ago, Red Bull looked into switching to Mercedes but was vetoed by the then works team McLaren.

Things have now changed: McLaren is a mere Mercedes customer and switching to Honda, while Mercedes is totally dominating the 2014 season with its industry-leading new turbo V6.

Furthermore, Red Bull is less content than ever with struggling Renault, but Dr Helmut Marko on Wednesday played down suggestions the reigning world champions might want to be supplied by arch-rival Mercedes instead.

"We do not want their engine, even if it is the best," he told Germany's Auto Bild.

"How would we ever know that they are giving us equal equipment?" Marko added.

Honda, returning to F1 next year as McLaren's new works supplier, might also be an option for Red Bull, with the Japanese marque open to supplying customers from 2016.

Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz told Speed Week: "First, we have a long-term contract with Renault.

"And secondly, we would only receive a customer engine from Honda."

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