Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

04/08/14

  • Di Montezemolo left Bahrain before the race was over, disgusted at the speed of the Domenicali led Ferrari team

    Only F1 noise will change – Todt

  • 'Super GP2' could be key to F1's future
  • Ricciardo better than Webber 'not fair' – Vettel
  • No title cliff-hanger in 2014 – Ecclestone
  • Todt unmoved by Vergne hospital story
  • Hamilton claims 'document' helped Rosberg catch up
  • Di Montezemolo: Ferrari plight very painful
  • The background to Bahrain
  • Haas still unsure of 2015 F1 entry New
  • Bahrain 'bland' until late safety car – Marko New

Only F1 noise will change – Todt
(GMM) When it comes to engine noise, most F1 players are open to turning up the volume of the turbo V6s.

"We're examining this problem with the three engine manufacturers involved in F1," said FIA president Jean Todt.

However, the Frenchman – who rebuked Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel for using an expletive to describe the quieter sound – said it is obvious that those making the loudest complaining noises are the ones who are struggling.

"Do you hear Nico Rosberg complaining?" said Todt. "Did you hear Sebastian Vettel complaining last year?"

But even the engine sound will not change unless Mercedes – the dominant V6-powered force – and its happy customers agree.

"We need the unanimous agreement of teams, otherwise we can't change anything," said Todt.

So when it comes to removing fuel flow meters, adding fuel or shortening the race distances, Todt warned that the only way Mercedes' competitors can catch up is by doing a better job.

"It seems that Mercedes is stronger. I don't have the power to say 'let's slow them down'," he said.

That attitude is music to Mercedes' ears.

"I think Jean has taken a very sensible line," said team boss Paddy Lowe, "so I hope all of that (rule change talk) could be put behind us."

Without a doubt, Sunday's thrilling Bahrain grand prix has also buried a lot of the arguments about F1 needing to urgently change because the races are boring.

"I think if we were to ask Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, they would not see themselves as taxi drivers," Todt, referring to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo's criticism of the 2014 formula, is quoted by German media.

Britain's Sun newspaper agreed: "Sorry Luca, the only taxi is for you."

The actual engine sound, however, is another matter, as even Mercedes agrees that the fans should be listened to.

"If this is an issue, let's work on it, let's understand what we can do," said Toto Wolff. "But this is a defined topic, not the sport as an overall."

Todt, however, insisted there is even an upside to the quieter engines.

"To get passion and emotion, you need to have some noise," he agreed. "We must see if we can implement a bigger noise.

"(But) my friend Bernie has a hearing aid because his hearing has been destroyed by the noise," he told the Times.

'Super GP2' could be key to F1's future
(GMM) The 'GP1' rumors are building.

It has been rumored that all the bleating about F1's controversial 2014 rules is because Bernie Ecclestone and Dietrich Mateschitz are trying to devalue the sport so that they can buy it cheap.

F1 supremo Ecclestone warned again in Bahrain that Mateschitz – the billionaire owner of reigning world champions Red Bull – is so unhappy with the new face of the sport that he could quit.

"If he wanted to stop, he'd stop," the 83-year-old told the British broadcaster Sky.

"He is not happy with the way the sport is being run at the moment, and this is the sort of thing that could tip him over," Ecclestone added.

Together with Red Bull but also Ferrari and the other top teams in the decision-making 'strategy group', Ecclestone has already killed FIA president Jean Todt's plans for mandatory budget caps in 2015.

As Ecclestone has six votes, the top teams have another six and Todt has only six, "It's mathematics," the disappointed Frenchman admitted. "No more cost cap."

He said he will now push cost reductions through for 2015 via the sporting regulations, but the struggling smaller teams are unhappy to have been left out of the voting process altogether.

"You can't enrich and empower certain very strong teams, disenfranchise the rest and expect us to be happy," Force India's deputy boss Bob Fernley is quoted by the Guardian.

Fernley said Ecclestone and the top teams wanted to kill the budget cap because the smaller teams could now fold, paving the way for "customer cars".

"Yeah, I'd like to see that," Ecclestone admitted when asked about the idea of the top six teams selling chassis to the bottom half of the grid.

"Whether it would work or not (I don't know)," he added.

In the end, it probably all comes down to the old 'Ecclestone versus the FIA' battle for control of formula one.

Ecclestone insists the rumors he wants full control of F1 in his own hands are "nonsense". Perhaps the real plan is 'GP1'.

Told that support series GP2 is not only a vastly cheaper category, but also now with cars almost as fast as the 'green' F1, and certainly louder, Ecclestone fully agreed.

"Maybe we should turn GP2 into formula one," said Ecclestone, who already controls the GP1 trademarks. "It would certainly cost a lot less. We'd certainly have a lot more teams.

"So maybe what we're talking about is a 'super GP2'," he added.

Ricciardo better than Webber 'not fair' – Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel insists it is too early to say his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo is better than Mark Webber.

Ricciardo, who like Webber is also Australian, has already made Vettel's life difficult in 2014, and in Bahrain the quadruple world champion even had to obey team orders.

"Daniel is quicker than you," Vettel's engineer told him. "Let him by, please."

German Vettel said he complied with the order because "I realized that he was just faster. It would have been pointless for me not to (move over)," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

But does all of this mean that, at the very least, Ricciardo is better than the recently-departed Webber, a winner of 9 career grands prix?

"It would be unfair to say that after three races," Vettel insists.

"Daniel certainly is doing his job very well, but a fair comparison is very, very difficult," he added.

There is another theory: perhaps Vettel is simply struggling to adapt to Red Bull's new and unfamiliar place in the pecking order.

"Sebastian is not used to driving cars that are not perfect," driver turned broadcaster Martin Brundle noted. "Daniel is."

The Italian newspaper Tuttosport agrees: "Vettel shows the best of himself when he's driving alone at the front. He is not used to fighting in the bunch.

"Dealing with the competition of Ricciardo is a new thing for him."

No title cliff-hanger in 2014 – Ecclestone
(GMM) When it comes to the loud criticisms of F1's new 'double points' innovation, Bernie Ecclestone simply points to Mercedes.

The F1 chief executive said he proposed the extra points for the Abu Dhabi season finale to add spice to the tail-end of a championship fight.

But even though he dreamed it up to prevent the sort of early title conclusion seen last year with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, Ecclestone admits double points will not be enough to stop a Mercedes triumph in 2014.

"It (double points) won't be necessary this year because the championship will be over much earlier than that," the 83-year-old told British broadcaster Sky.

When told he is obviously referring to a Mercedes driver, Ecclestone agreed: "Exactly."

Notwithstanding Mercedes' dominance, the Lewis Hamilton versus Nico Rosberg duel for victory in Bahrain was celebrated as a thrilling triumph for F1.

"Mercedes celebrated in Bahrain after a great show that did not feature Ferrari," Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport said.

The authoritative daily said the duel was "reminiscent of Senna and Prost at McLaren, or Mansell and Piquet at Williams, showing that a fight within a team can make us hold our breath so long as there aren't team orders."

Corriere dello Sport, a major Roman daily, said Bahrain was further evidence that Ferrari is in "clear decline, not even knowing where to begin to change its situation".

Il Messaggero newspaper added: "The 'new' F1 works, and is even thrilling."

Mercedes' Toto Wolff, however, warned that it is "inevitable" that eventually the in-house scrap between Hamilton and Rosberg will turn sour, and so "internal discussions" about team orders cannot be ruled out.

Dr Helmut Marko told Servus TV on Monday that he hoped it had gone sour in Bahrain.

"For many laps we were hoping that something (between Hamilton and Rosberg) happened," he said.

But team chairman Niki Lauda insisted: "We are of the opinion that the drivers can race at the highest level, and it will stay that way," he is quoted by Sport1.

Fernando Alonso admitted he is worried Ferrari is being left behind altogether.

"The championship is going away," the German news agency DPA quotes him as saying.

"Hamilton and Rosberg are driving flawlessly and taking advantage of their position.

"What we have to do is work harder," the Spaniard added. "During the tests, we will work night and day."

Indeed, Alonso will drive on both days of the post-race Bahrain test this week.

Todt unmoved by Vergne hospital story
(GMM) Jean Todt insists he is not moved by claims extreme diets are putting drivers at risk.

As the heavier 2014 cars struggle to get beneath the 692kg minimum weight limit, rumors of drivers deliberately dehydrating, fasting and even fainting have been swirling in the paddock.

Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne says he even visited hospital after the Australian grand prix.

"I did a diet this winter but you get to certain limits that the body can no longer take," he said, clearly urging for an increase in the weight limit.

But Todt, the president of the FIA, said it is up to the drivers to manage their weight loss in a healthy way within the existing rules.

"Honestly, I don't know why a driver … I think normally you can do a good diet and not have to go to hospital because you have been losing some kilos," he is quoted by the Telegraph.

Hamilton claims 'document' helped Rosberg catch up
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton claims teammate Nico Rosberg improved between the Malaysian and Bahrain grand prix by studying his data.

The 2008 world champion, still 11 points behind championship leader Rosberg despite winning two of the three grands prix in 2014, revealed that when the German arrived in Bahrain, he was handed a "big document".

A week earlier in Malaysia, Rosberg had been defeated by Hamilton by no less than 17 seconds, but in Bahrain the Mercedes duo diced wheel-to-wheel for the race win.

"Someone in the team did a huge study on my pace in Malaysia," Hamilton told British newspapers, revealing that the document received by Rosberg detailed "all the places I was quick".

"So I will do the same for the next round in China and hope I can capitalize," he added.

"I am going to study hard for the next two weeks and give it a lot of thought and digest a lot."

Hamilton finished just one second ahead of Rosberg in Bahrain, where the pair fought hard for victory despite team boss Paddy Lowe's radio call that they should "bring both cars home".

"It's great they allowed us to fight and didn't get in the way," said Hamilton.

But he warned that "if every single race is like that from now on, I can't always guarantee we'll both come out happy."

Di Montezemolo: Ferrari plight very painful
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has described the team's current struggles as "very painful".

The Italian marque struggled amid severe tire degradation and slow straight-line speed at the Bahrain Grand Prix, with drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen having to settle for respective ninth and 10th positions.

"I don't like seeing Ferrari in this condition," explained di Montezemolo, whose team has slipped to fifth in the Constructors' standings. "The engine people at the factory need to work to make a big leap forward in quality.

"I didn't expect much here, but I expected a bit more. To see a Ferrari this slow on the straights is very painful."

Alonso is hopeful that the team can make improvements and soon fight for its first silverware of the season.

"We believe we can do better than we are doing now," said the two-time World Champion. "And the [Sakhir] track is one of the worst [for the Ferrari]. We are missing some of the characteristics that this track requires.

"In China I expect to be more competitive. Some circuits are coming where we need to get some podiums."

The background to Bahrain
A lot has happened since the last blog post. The Bahrain Grand Prix was terrific and completely debunked the politicking that Bernie Ecclestone and Luca Montezemolo were up to before the race. The new formula was not only brilliant technically but it led to a great race.

For whatever reasons, the two grandees were busy talking down the sport and saying that things needed to be changed. Perhaps they were simply testing the water to see if there would be any response from FIA President Jean Todt, who is doing a very decent impression of The Invisible Man at the moment.

When Bernie wants to put out a message he wanders into the Media Centre at a Grand Prix and very quickly he is buried beneath a pile of people. In 15 minutes he has delivered the message and departs. Luca Montezemolo is much the same but he tends to chatter only to the Italian media, allowing his message to filter through the system. Those who miss these events (if they care) look upon it as having been unlucky, or in the wrong place at the right time. Todt, on the other hand, insists on choosing a few friendly journalists and in consequence manages to alienate all those who were not invited. It is a brilliant way to make enemies and such a simple thing not to do. I understand that Jean is not good with the media, but this is why he needs to hire people who know what they are doing, and to tell him how best to get his message across. Hiring the wrong people, or people who only tell their boss what he wants to hear is always going to lead to failure.

Right now the powers-that-be in Formula 1 are on the back foot: Ecclestone has legal actions coming at him like Zulu spears at Rorke’s Drift, Montezemolo has not had any decent results from his F1 team for years and knows that the eyes of the Agnelli Family are on him. Todt could throw his weight around more as a lot of the other teams would support him if they sensed weakness in Ecclestone.

The big teams may say that they don’t want a cost cap but there is no logic in this position. They may be all right, but if there is no-one to race against, their achievements are cheapened. And let’s face it, one of the smaller things that the race in Bahrain showed us is that money is not everything. Force India and Williams were just as good as Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. Think about that for a minute. If the people funding Ferrari and Red Bull stopped and thought about it, they would realize that if the middle-ranking teams can outperform the big guns, then the money being spent on the big teams is wasted investment. It is profit cast upon the ground. And, let’s face it, the big companies are generally run by those who seek efficiency. Force India and Williams are efficient. Ferrari and Red Bull are not. Mercedes has spent so much that it is probably where it should be: a second clear of the rest. But if all the teams agree on a cost cap, then Mercedes would be embarrassed into it as well and everyone would be better off for it because F1 would be about efficiency not just technically but also commercially.

Ferrari is red-faced right now because it gets the best deal of all the teams from Bernie Ecclestone and still cannot deliver… No wonder Montezemolo is worried.

The bottom line here is very simple. If the teams remain pits into which money is thrown, they will eventually run out of potential owners because there is no real incentive to be a team owner. They might have business plans and big egos but paying for it all gets boring after a few years. If F1 teams made money there would be a queue of potential owners. America is full of sport billionaires who would line up to grab a team that made some cash. The key to success is to create a situation in which the team owners do not feel that they are being exploited. If they did not feel that way they would be happy. The share of the profits of F1 would no longer be an issue.

Right now, greed rules the roost: Bernie has had his slice of the pie (and a very big slice it was). He has done so much for the sport, but he will forever be remembered as the man who let the asset-strippers of CVC get a foot in the door and exploit the people who make the show. The problem is that CVC’s greed means that the sport is now laden with debt and cannot afford to pay more to the teams. Not for many years at least. And the chances are that they will get out and sell the business to the next generation of asset strippers, who will not do what is needed and put money back in and fix the sport.

The one way to break the cycle is for the FIA to act decisively if Bernie Ecclestone is found guilty on corruption charges in Germany. There has to be some kind of morality clause in the deal between the FIA and the Formula One group and if not there is an Ethics Committee at the FIA to rule on those who have brought the sport into disrepute. If the 100-year deal is declared null and void as a result of indiscretions, the only real loser will be CVC and it has already had enough money out of the sport. They are a company that takes risks and if they lose the F1 deal the risk averse will likely not fight too hard for fear of too much dirty linen, which could affect all the other investments they have… The option is for CVC to sell, but the Formula One company remains the company and if its officers have been up to no good then the deal could still be broken. And that means that buying into the business is a huge risk for any new investor.

So, Jean Todt has the power to turn the sport around without causing anyone too much pain. If he then finds a way of creating a new structure with 15 percent for the promoter and 85 percent for the teams, with all the teams getting the choice of an equal share of the money, without any special deals, all that is then required is a sensible cost cap, written into the rules. If he could do this he would have solved all the problems and then he could then go off and do all the road safety stuff he wants to do without fear. But for all this to happen, two things must occur: Ecclestone must be found guilty and Todt must then pounce and show some steel. Joe Saward

Haas still unsure of 2015 F1 entry
(GMM) Gene Haas has revealed he is yet to be notified officially that he will be let in as F1's newest team owner in 2015.

In Bahrain at the weekend, Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that the Nascar team co-owner's entry will almost certainly be accepted, along with another new team believed to be headed by the former Force India and HRT chief Colin Kolles.

FIA president Jean Todt also confirmed the news, saying it will be announced officially "in coming days".

In the US, however, Haas said Ecclestone and the FIA are yet to inform him.

"We haven't been notified by the FIA, but Bernie is kind of half formula one, so I'm sure what he says goes," he is quoted by the Associated Press.

But Haas, who admitted he decided to enter F1 to raise awareness of his highly successful tool machine business Haas Automation, admitted the delay in getting the 2015 entry approved is a worry.

"We needed to know about two months ago," he said.

"If Mr Ecclestone says that we're accepted and the FIA issues us some kind of notice in the next few weeks, then we can entertain 2015. But if we lose another month, I don't think we could do it."

F1 supremo Ecclestone admitted he is not sure Haas will "turn up" in 2015.

"It's easy to put the entry in," the 83-year-old told British broadcaster Sky.

Bahrain 'bland' until late safety car – Marko
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko is not convinced Sunday's Bahrain grand prix was a F1 thriller.

After all the carping about the radical 2014 rules having turned F1 into 'formula yawn', Bahrain was hailed as a timely and highly-entertaining spectacle.

"There was a lot of criticism beforehand," Mercedes' Nico Rosberg told German television ARD as Tuesday as he began post-race testing in Bahrain.

"But people who watched the race tell me it was one of the best ever."

But Marko, whose employer Red Bull is one of the teams most vocally unhappy with the new regulations, is not so sure.

"Only after the safety car was it a really great race," the outspoken Austrian told Red Bull-owned Servus TV.

There were only ten laps of the 57-lap Bahrain race left when the safety car for Esteban Gutierrez's roll-over shunt finally pulled into the pits.

It was then that Lewis Hamilton's epic duel with his Mercedes teammate Rosberg really began.

"If the safety car had not come out, it would have been a relatively bland race," Marko claims.

Rosberg said it is "logical" that Mercedes' rivals are not happy with the current situation.

"We made the best of the new rules and are absolutely dominant at the moment," he admitted. "That the other teams don't like it is logical.

"Last year, it was Red Bull doing the best job, now it's us. So it's not nice that now the others are crying all of a sudden about rule changes," Rosberg added.

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