Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Marco Mattiacci

    Mattiacci to head Ferrari for 'long time'

  • Vettel 'shocked' by Domenicali exit
  • Ferrari could turn hopes to 2015 season
  • 'Taxi driver' claim not honest – Lauda
  • Renault initially 'not open' amid crisis – Marko
  • US base for Haas team 'crazy' – Montoya
  • Ecclestone planning new F1 masters series
  • Red Bull no longer F1's benchmark: Webber
  • Whiting and Honda man line up for China press conference
  • Montezemolo steps up F1 involvement
  • Hamilton and Alonso best paid F1 drivers – report New
  • Alonso denies sarcastic 'victory salute' with Bahrain ninth New
  • Alonso: New boss will need time New
  • Romain Grosjean finally paid by Lotus New

Mattiacci to head Ferrari for 'long time'
(GMM) Luca di Montezemolo has played down rumors Marco Mattiacci is only a stop-gap solution at the top of the Ferrari team.

It is rumored Gerhard Berger or Ross Brawn are the more likely long-term successors following Stefano Domenicali's sudden resignation.

Flavio Briatore has already ruled himself out. "I have another job," he told La Repubblica newspaper.

Ferrari president Montezemolo, however, rejected the rumors, insisting Mattiacci is the man for the job.

"He will already start to make a difference at the Chinese grand prix," he is quoted by the Ansa news agency.

"He's going to be at the helm for a long time. I am also going to be closer to the team during this transition, taking a more hands-on role until Marco gets the hang of things," Montezemolo reportedly added.

Italian Briatore, the former Renault team boss, said he backs Domenicali's exit.

"They needed to shake things up," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "You can't keep saying 'we're looking ahead to next year'.

"Stefano is a hard worker, but F1 is a competition and results are what matter. There can be no excuses when you have a driver as good as Alonso," he added.

Briatore also played down criticism that Mattiacci will struggle in the F1 paddock due to his lack of experience.

"When I arrived at Benetton," he is quoted by Repubblica, "I was selling t-shirts. He has been selling Ferrari cars."

Vettel 'shocked' by Domenicali exit
(GMM) World champion Sebastian Vettel says he was "shocked" when he heard about Stefano Domenicali's departure at Ferrari.

Although also fierce rivals, the pair were friends, and so regularly spotted chatting or shaking hands in the paddock that Vettel was constantly linked with a potential switch from Red Bull in the future.

But on Monday, due to Ferrari's poor results, Domenicali quit.

"I was shocked when I heard about it," Vettel told Germany's Sport Bild.

"It came as quite a surprise, because he's been there for so long, but I don't know any of the background," he admitted.

Domenicali's exit has split the F1 paddock. Some think the fabled Italian team, having not won a title since 2007, needs precisely the "shake up" referred to by the 48-year-old in his official departure quote.

But former driver turned commentator Marc Surer told Germany's Sky: "Domenicali is not the problem at Ferrari."

Surer said the main problem is Maranello's new turbo V6.

He explained that Mercedes is clearly ahead, "Renault has made great progress and Ferrari has been left behind".

Another ex-driver and commentator, Christian Danner, also hit out at Ferrari's culture of pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

"Luca di Montezemolo tends to say that everything else is bad when Ferrari doesn't win.

"So when Ferrari builds an engine that is not good enough and uses too much fuel, then it's a formula one problem, not a Ferrari problem," he reportedly told n-tv.

Montezemolo has told Italian media that he will help the F1-inexperienced Mattiacci get up to speed.

"I will spend more time in the paddock," he promised. "Everyone must now do everything to return to success."

Ferrari could turn hopes to 2015 season
(GMM) Ferrari may already be looking to write off the 2014 title.

After a bad start to the new turbo V6 era for the fabled Italian team, Ferrari is just fifth in the constructors' championship, behind rival Mercedes and Renault-powered teams.

Technical boss Pat Fry admitted this week that trying to beat dominant Mercedes is "currently" not a realistic goal.

"Our first priority," he said, "is to establish ourselves as the second best team."

After failing to preside over even a single podium at any of the opening three races of the season, team boss Stefano Domenicali quit his post.

Team president Luca di Montezemolo has now admitted the clock is ticking on Ferrari's 2014 hopes.

"The next four or five races will be decisive in seeing whether we can catch up with Mercedes (this season)," he is quoted by the Italian press.

'Taxi driver' claim not honest – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda has lashed out at Luca di Montezemolo's claim that the 2014 rules have reduced the F1 field to little more than "taxi drivers".

"Whoever says the races are 'economy runs' and that the drivers are 'taxi drivers' is lying," the Mercedes chairman angrily told Italy's Autosprint.

"It is absolutely not true," triple world champion and former Ferrari driver Lauda added.

In his harsh critique of the controversial 'new' face of F1, Ferrari president Montezemolo claims drivers are easing their cars to the checker because of the new 100kg per race fuel limit.

But Lauda insists Ferrari must simply have not done a good enough job with the new rules.

"In Malaysia, where we were first and second, we finished the race with 5 kilograms of fuel left over," he said. "And other teams were in the same condition.

"Last year, when the Pirelli tires were so weak and erratic, we had to slow down much more during the race but no one complained then.

"And because of the tires, we were saving fuel (in 2013) more than now, because a couple of kilos more weight would affect the performance so much. Yet no one said the drivers were 'taxi drivers'," Lauda charged.

Renault initially 'not open' amid crisis – Marko
(GMM) Renault's 2014 crisis began to ease when the French marque became more "open", according to outspoken Red Bull director Dr Helmut Marko.

He revealed during an interview with the Austrian news agency APA that when the depth of the pre-season crisis became clear, he began a series of emergency visits to France.

"We found many errors," Marko said ahead of the Chinese grand prix.

"What annoyed us is that they (Renault) were not open. Now there is a constructive cooperation," he revealed.

"We are working hard with both Renault and Toro Rosso. The basic mistake was that Renault started work much too late."

Marko is now hoping the problems were not discovered too late to stop Mercedes from walking away with the title.

"We are optimistic," he said, "because we know we are still not optimal with the engine in some areas. We know to what degree it works and to what degree it does not.

"So it all depends on the development. On the chassis side, we have done our part."

Marko has already claimed that Red Bull's disadvantage to the field-leading Mercedes V6 is as much as 80 horse power.

"We are used to winning with less horse power if you're clever in the other areas," he explained.

"But 80 is too much, especially if you are also significantly worse in the drivability. And Mercedes is also coming to the line with 6kg left in the tank, while we measure what is left in grams," said Marko.

US base for Haas team 'crazy' – Montoya
(GMM) Gene Haas is "crazy" to base his new formula one team in America.

That is the claim of Juan Pablo Montoya, a former F1 winner who subsequently set up a career in Nascar, the top stock car series where Haas already co-owns a team.

Haas revealed this week that 'Haas Formula', his new F1 entry, will be primarily based at the Nascar team's headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

"What we're going to do is take a portion of that building, and that will be the formula one headquarters right here in Kannapolis," he said.

Haas admitted that the team will then probably have a 'satellite' operation in Europe.

"Well, we have an office in Brussels and that facility is available," he said, "but I don't know if it logistically makes any sense.

"Ideally, going forward, the main office for formula one would be here in Kannapolis, and maybe a smaller office somewhere in either Germany or Italy for assembly and disassembly of cars."

Colombian Montoya admitted he was surprised to hear about Haas' plans.

"If he wants to set up a team here in the United States, I think that's crazy," the former Williams and McLaren driver said.

"You can't even say it's crazy because it makes no sense," Montoya is quoted by Le Figaro. "It is impossible to get people in England to move to Charlotte," he added.

Ecclestone planning new F1 masters series
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is planning to launch a 'masters' series for former F1 cars and drivers.

With drivers like Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi and Riccardo Patrese at the wheel, 'GP Masters' was launched in 2005 but it folded after only 2 races.

Now, business journalist Christian Sylt reports that F1 chief executive Ecclestone is planning his own series, to be called 'Historic Formula One'.

Forbes quoted Gerhard Berger as saying: "I am sure that it will be successful and that all former drivers would like to participate."

Martin Brundle said he would like to take part, "especially if it was supporting the F1 calendar".

Sylt said Ecclestone, who has been highly critical of the new turbo V6 era in F1, plans to have the masters cars powered by deafening V10 engines.

"We have talked about it and it is something we ought to do," Ecclestone told the Wall Street Journal.

"Many of these old drivers are still absolutely good enough."

Ecclestone said that, unlike the defunct single-make GP Masters series, his idea would be to form a grid of real F1 cars.

Brundle said: "To attract the household names of decades past I suspect the cars would need to be safer and less physical to drive."

1996 world champion Damon Hill agreed: "I think most old drivers want to get home to bed early with a good book."

Red Bull no longer F1's benchmark: Webber
Mark Webber believes his former team Red Bull are no longer the benchmark in Formula One, but is confident they'll bounce back from their early season woes.

The defending champions sit fourth on the constructors' standings after three rounds, 76 points behind runaway leaders and this year's only race winners Mercedes.

A raft of technical changes for 2014 – including the introduction of new hybrid engines – have hampered the Renault-powered outfit's charge towards a fifth consecutive championship, on top of their failed bid to have Daniel Ricciardo's second-place finish at the Australian Grand Prix reinstated.

A double punishment to the 24-year-old for a pitlane error in Malaysia two weeks later didn't help either, but Webber on Thursday backed his successor – and the team – to turn things around.

"He'll ride this out," he told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast.

"It's normal to have a bit of (bad luck) – well, not maybe so much in his first few events with the start to the season he's had, but he'll just knuckle down and get on with it.

"As a youngster coming in, I think they're going to give him a great chance to do well and that's what the team needs to do now.

"They're not the benchmark either, anymore. The team's under a little bit of heat early in the championship. They're a quality team and they'll be back, under the leadership of Adrian Newey – particularly on the design front.

"But Mercedes have got the run on them at the moment, with that car they're doing well. So they need to work together as a team, for sure."

Webber, who begins his new life as a sportscar driver with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone this weekend, said Ricciardo's flying start to the year – minus the mishaps – came as no surprise to him.

The Australian predicted a tight battle between him and new teammate Sebastian Vettel, "and that's turning out to be the case".

"Everyone was probably saying that I was probably talking it up a bit, but it was honest.

"He's at the right age where he can ruffle a few feathers and that's exactly what he's done and doing well.

"There's not many people happier than me to see the Aussie flag and see him going well."

F1 action heads to Shanghai this weekend for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Whiting and Honda man line up for China press conference
In a rare move, Charlie Whiting will participate in this Friday's technical press conference in Shanghai.

The FIA's Race Director and Safety Delegate will join engine men Andrew Cowell from Mercedes and Rob White (Renault), Ferrari's Pat Fry and Yasuhisa Arai, Honda's Chief Officer of Motorsports.

Whiting, whose last press conference was just ahead of the season opening Grand Prix in Melbourne, at which time he attempted to clarify the existing rules whilst introducing a few new ones, comes at a time when debate over the 2014 regulations still rages.

Such is Ferrari's desperation, the Maranello outfit, having made little impact with its poll, in which 83% of those that took part expressed the view that they don't like the 2014 regulations – which in turn corresponds with a Pitpass poll in which 81% of those that voted said the Italian team's unhappiness with the regulations was down to "sour grapes" – has taken to quoting the president of the Italian Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malago, who, by amazing coincidence, is also unhappy with the new regulations.

"I speak on behalf of Italian sports people and fans, I don’t like this Formula 1 and in my opinion it’s delivered a product that has absolutely no sense," he declared. "In my opinion, it’s a form of self-harm. I hope the people who run the sport look again at the rules because the way Formula 1 is now, it has much less appeal and that’s a shame as it is an extraordinary world."

Ignoring the manner in which the original Olympic ideal has been wholly sacrificed in the name of mammon, as we await similar views from the presidents of the Austrian and French Olympic Committees, Whiting is also certain to be asked about reports that the sport could witness a return to active suspension in a bid to limit costs especially as it has been suggested that the system – like so many others these days – would be an FIA standard issue.

Other suggestions being put before the Strategy Group as the sport include further reducing the number of gearboxes available, simplification of the front wings (yawn), lengthening curfews and further reducing staff numbers taken to races.

All this as the majority of teams attempt to balance the books following the last round of changes.

Montezemolo steps up F1 involvement
The Italian squad announced on Monday that Stefano Domenicali was stepping down from the role he has held since 2008 with immediate effect.

Domenicali has been replaced by the president and CEO of Ferrari North America Mattiacci.

Di Montezemolo is convinced the Italian is the right person for the job despite his apparent lack of experience in racing, and the Ferrari head said he will personally assist him.

"I will help him, I will do like I did in the past: I will stay closer to Formula 1, I'll spend more time on it," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The first person at being not satisfied at the moment is me, but don't worry, I'm putting myself on the line: Mattiacci is the right choice, we'll get back to winning ways very soon.

"I've decided to go for a young manager I strongly believe in, and on a person from the Ferrari family, thus avoiding me going around the world looking for some mercenary.

"Let's look ahead: we all must roll up our sleeves in order to be competitive again."

Analysis: why Ferrari chose Marco Mattiacci

Di Montezemolo believes Mattiacci's lack of technical knowledge is irrelevant in his new position.

"Underlining that Mattiacci is not a technician is useless and unfair," he said. "Moreover, I chose him in full accord with (Fiat CEO Sergio) Marchionne.

"We are full of talented people with qualities and capabilities and we are full of technicians, from whom I now expect an immediate reaction."

Ferrari's president also praised Domenicali for having the courage to step down when he had the support of the team.

"After 23 years with us, Stefano has had the courage of resigning, a rare occurrence in our country. He pays for the lack of results, it's a rule in sports," he added.

"But let me remind you that since 2007 we have won three world titles and we have nearly won as many more, a couple of them at the season's finale.

"It's not a little achievement and that must not be forgotten, also because it didn't happen a century ago." Yahoo Eurosport UK

Hamilton and Alonso best paid F1 drivers – report
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are the top paid F1 drivers, according to data compiled by ESPN Magazine and Sporting Intelligence.

Hamilton and Alonso allegedly earned $27.5 million over the last twelve months – excluding endorsements – while driving respectively for Mercedes and Ferrari. No other F1 drivers were featured in the top-25, which was topped by boxer, Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather took home $73.5 million.

Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile was ranked #2 just ahead of fellow footballer Lionel Messi – $50.2 million versus $50.1 million. England footballer and Manchester United star Wayne Rooney came in 15th on $26 million, leaving Hamilton as the top paid British sports star.

Alonso denies sarcastic 'victory salute' with Bahrain ninth
(GMM) Fernando Alonso on Thursday denied his frustration with Ferrari's poor 2014 hit a sarcastic low recently in Bahrain.

Hot on the heels of Stefano Domenicali's departure, it now emerges that Alonso punched the air in an apparently sarcastic victory gesture, after the crossing the line just ninth in Bahrain two weeks ago.

It is known that Domenicali's successor Marco Mattiacci will meet the F1 press for the first time on Friday, and team president Luca di Montezemolo has also confirmed Mattiacci's presence in Shanghai.

But Alonso on Thursday told reporters he is not sure if he will meet Mattiacci ahead of the Chinese grand prix.

It has been rumored Alonso, reportedly increasingly frustrated with the situation in his fifth season in red, could be Maranello's next high-profile departure.

Asked about the sarcastic victory celebration in Bahrain, the 32-year-old denied it was a swipe at Ferrari's competitive crisis.

"I was saying thanks to the mechanics," he insisted.

"They had been working hard after a problem on the engine unit. They did a fantastic job, and when they were on the pitwall saying 'hello', I said 'hello' too," Alonso added.

As for the impending arrival of Mattiacci, Alonso said Domenicali was a "close friend" and denied his departure will have an immediate effect.

"We need to accept what Stefano decided. He wasn't in the mood to continue with the feeling of having everything on his shoulders," he explained.

"In this race, we will not improve by one second, because Stefano wasn't doing the front wing or the rear wing, so we need to wait and see what we can improve."

Alonso was a close ally of Domenicali, and has been in touch with him regularly this week, but revealed in China that he had not yet talked to Mattiacci.

"I didn't have a chance. I don't know if he is coming here, I guess so," said Alonso.

"It will be a good time to welcome him and I have really not much to say.

"I drive the car and hopefully he will be good enough to recognize what are the weak areas of the team, what are the strong areas of the team, and hopefully can improve them."

Alonso thinks that Mattiacci will need time to settle in to his new F1 role, and suggests it is important Ferrari pulls together to try to get him up to speed with what improvements are needed.

"I think we need to give him time and try to see how he settles down," he said. "It is too early to say if it will be very good or very bad.

"We need to make sure we have the facilities ready, or technical staff ready and put him in a condition to feel comfortable from day one."

Alonso: New boss will need time
Fernando Alonso says Ferrari's new team principal Marco Mattiacci will need time to settle into his position.

Mattiacci comes to the team after Stefano Domenicali stepped down as Ferrari boss on Monday and is set to arrive in China this weekend to get down to work. Mattiacci does not have first-hand experience of working in Formula One, but has worked in senior positions in both Asia and the USA for Ferrari.

"I think we need to give him time and try to see how he settles down," Alonso said. "It is too early to say he will be very good or very bad, we need to make sure he has all the facilities ready, technical stuff ready and team behind him to settle down as quickly as possible.

"We will try to put him in a position to feel comfortable from day one. We are really hoping he will be a successful manager in the team and everyone is looking forward."

Alonso still holds hope that Ferrari will turn its fortunes around this year.

"I think we need to be honest with our situation. It is not where we wanted to be and there is a lot of room to improve. We need to become better in a lot of areas on the car and there is a long way to go. The championship is very long and we probably know that for the first part of the championship we will not be as competitive as Mercedes or some of the teams that are on top. We need to maximize what we have in our hands now and hopefully we can be very competitive later on in the season."

Alonso was close to Domenicali but said he understood why his former boss decided to step down.

"We need to accept what Stefano decided. He was probably not anymore with the mood to continue and with the feeling to take the weight on his shoulders, and he made a very responsible move. It's not easy when you have a very privileged position in a Formula One team, to step back and say 'maybe it is better to move'.

"He did it for Ferrari to improve and for Ferrari's interest, so that is something that we cannot forget and we have to respect the decision. From that point it is not as if at this race we will improve one second, because it's not as if Stefano was doing the front wing or rear wing by his hands, so we need to wait a bit of time and see what we can improve. We will try to help all the team with the new people coming, to make us stronger and try to get back some of the success from the past."

Asked if he had talked with Mattiacci yet, Alonso added: "I didn't have a chance. I don't know if he is coming here, but I guess so. It will be a good time to welcome him, but I don't have much to say. I drive the car and he will be good enough to recognize what are the weak areas of the team and what are the strong areas and hopefully improve them. As drivers we will try to drive as fast as we can – both Kimi [Raikkonen] and me – and try to help in whatever way our help is required." ESPN F1

Romain Grosjean finally paid by Lotus
Whilst Raikkonen was outspoken in his condemnation of Lotus' actions, Grosjean opted for a different path and kept his counsel.

But the Frenchman has now revealed he was also in the same boat as Raikkonen, who has since moved on to Ferrari.

Following the implementation of a new management structure over the winter, Grosjean is finally able to pay his bills again.

'Since the new management has been in place, everything has been sorted and is good,' said Grosjean.

'But what happened was certainly not the way I wanted things to go. 'I never opened my mouth in front of the media because it was my own business, my personal thing.

'Kimi kind of launched the whole thing, that drivers hadn't been paid and so on. 'It wasn't easy for the guys (within the team), but things have now been made right.'

Asked whether motivation was a problem during the period when he was unpaid, Grosjean replied: 'No because I don't do this for money, I do it for me – although at some stages I was a bit worried for my rent!'

With a regular salary again, at least that is making the situation on track this season more bearable as Lotus remain plagued by technical issues.

Neither Grosjean nor new team-mate Pastor Maldonado have collected a point from the opening three grands prix of the current campaign.

But with a more reliable financial structure in place, ahead of this weekend's race in China, Grosjean said: 'At least now we don't have the problems we faced in the past, which is good for us.

'After two successful years, going into a difficult season it can be very different. "But everyone is trying as hard as they can to get the car as good as it can be, to move forward and not blame something they shouldn't.

'We're together, we're united, because at the end of the day we're all in the same boat.'

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