Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

01/29/14

  • The new Ferrari ran better than any car on F1's day of embarrassment

    'Embarrassing' start to F1's brave new era

  • Raikkonen's back 'ok' after F1 driving return
  • Vettel hopes for 'miracle' a month into Schumacher coma
  • Horner Questions Formula One Budget Cap Plans
  • Lotus F1 Team Sells Reported Stake Of 10% To Russian Backer Yota Devices
  • Haas Says He Is Serious About Fielding An F1 Team
  • Quotes from Day 1 of Jerez testing New
  • McLaren confirms Boullier as 'racing director' New
  • Manager denies doctors to end Schumacher coma New
  • Ecclestone pushing for 'double points' in three races New
  • Higher top speeds expected in 2014 New
  • Marussia on track for Thursday debut New

'Embarrassing' start to F1's brave new era
(GMM) Roger Benoit, one of the longest serving F1 correspondents in the paddock, said Tuesday's events at Jerez were "embarrassing".

"I have not experienced a start to a new test season such as that in 45 years in formula one," Benoit, who writes for the Swiss newspaper Blick, told Germany's Bild-Zeitung.

As the new hybrid and V6-powered single seaters – featuring bizarre and often rude-looking nose appendages – broke down, hit the barriers or failed even to emerge from the garages, Benoit said F1 had "pulled its pants down in front of the whole world".

"Why do we always make everything more complicated?" he lamented.

Marc Surer, the expert pundit for German television Sky, agreed: "I had not imagined it would be quite this bad."

Where usually up to 100 laps per day and beyond is de rigueur in F1's era of tightly limited testing, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was Tuesday's most prolific runner, with 31 laps in the bag.

And his best lap was 10 seconds off the pace of a normal Jerez test, even though he insisted that "doesn't mean anything".

"We are only learning a new car and driving as much as we can," said Raikkonen.

The bulk of the rest of the field could count their tallies on the fingers of one hand, including the bizarrely double-nosed new Caterham, whose Marcus Ericsson managed only a single outlap in the entire test day.

"If it's slow but beautiful then what's the point of that?" rookie Ericsson said.

At the moment, however, 'ugly' and stationary is the only conclusion to draw from F1 2014. McLaren's MP4-29 didn't leave the garage even once.

Jean-Eric Vergne, in the unseemly new Toro Rosso, managed 15 laps and was happy, "because just getting the car on track was an achievement".

World champion Sebastian Vettel was stranded in the pits nearly all day after mechanics installed one of the new Red Bull's components upside down.

The German did not point a finger at his crew, however, telling Welt newspaper that this year's cars are "like a puzzle" to put together.

"Before, F1 cars were not so close to rocket science like they are now," he is quoted by F1's official website.

Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost said: "When we ran the car at Misano, it became clear how difficult it was to get all the systems interacting with each other."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said at Jerez: "There's probably 40 per cent more drawings required to produce the car and therefore that many more parts to be made and tested.

"I don't know how the little teams are coping," he told the BBC.

It is obvious to say that, given the team's former dominance, Red Bull would have preferred the regulations stay the same in 2014.

"It is clear that F1 must evolve and be relevant to the automotive industry," Horner is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace, "but we do need to question the timing of this change.

"There are several cars here without many (sponsorship) stickers."

The boss of one of those smaller teams, Toro Rosso's Tost, admitted that the necessary annual budget had increased by 25 per cent over the winter.

"And that money is only to build a car and perform at about the same level as last year. In short, the situation is difficult," the Austrian told Russia's f1news.ru.

He predicted, however, that the farcical sight of constantly-waving red flags would eventually end.

"I think in Melbourne it will not happen," said Tost. "I think already here, on Thursday and Friday, we will be hearing the fantastic music of the new turbo engines.

"This is only the first test day in January — there is plenty of time until Melbourne."

Some, however, are not impressed with the milder V6 tones, Nico Hulkenberg admitting Tuesday's proceedings reminded him of a DTM touring car test.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff, however, said early testing is not a good judge, as the engines are not running at full tilt.

French driver Vergne agreed: "I would say that we were trying everything in a 'safe mode'."

Finally, as Tuesday's most prolific runner, the spotlight fell on the taciturn Raikkonen to deliver the verdict on how 2014 feels from the cockpit.

"It's definitely different," he said, "but it's not like night and day."

And what does he think of F1's brave new era?

"The rules are what they are," Raikkonen told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, "and the cars are built to whatever the rules are. It makes no sense to complain now."

The new Ferrari with Raikkonen at the wheel

Raikkonen's back 'ok' after F1 driving return
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen on Tuesday gave the thumbs up as he returned to the cockpit of a formula one car.

Having already signed to switch from Lotus to Ferrari for 2014, the Finn sat out the last few races of last season in order to have a back injury cured through surgery and physiotherapy.

Asked about his return to speed on Tuesday at the wheel of Ferrari's brand new F14-T, Raikkonen told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat: "The back is ok.

"At least now, on the first day of driving, I did not have any problems," he explained. "And I don't expect any either, even if you never know what's going to happen in the future."

Raikkonen, 34, said he has been able to train normally since the end of December, six weeks after his mid November operation.

Vettel hopes for 'miracle' a month into Schumacher coma
(GMM) Wednesday marks exactly one month that Michael Schumacher has been in a coma.

Doctors at the Grenoble hospital have kept the great German unconscious through anesthesia, and he is now listed in a "stable" condition.

But the length of 45-year-old Schumacher's coma has neurosurgeons all around the world concerned.

"Regarding neurological functionality, the more time that passes, the more the ability to recover can be challenged," Lyon neurosurgeon chief Patrick Mertens told France's RMC Sport.

"It is certain that in the weeks to come, if we then come to two months and there is no improvement, you worry even more about the ability to recover," he added.

However, another French-speaking neurosurgeon told La Presse newspaper that he has seen "patients improve between one and three years after an accident".

But Gerard Audibert, a neurosurgeon at France's Nancy hospital, told La Depeche newspaper: "The average duration of an artificial coma with a severe brain injury is 15 days."

World champion Sebastian Vettel, once dubbed 'Baby Schumi' by the German press, said he has stayed away from his friend and mentor's bedside since the December accident.

"It's not about me at all it's about Michael only and his family," the Red Bull driver said at the Jerez test on Tuesday.

"I am still as shocked as everybody else and I pray and hope he will come back and the miracle will happen and he will be the person he always has been before," Vettel added.

Horner Questions Formula One Budget Cap Plans
Red Bull has "questioned plans to introduce a budget cap into Formula 1 next year," according to Andrew Benson of the BBC. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner and McLaren Sporting Dir Sam Michael "objected to the idea of a cost cap at a meeting last week."

Discussions have so far centered on a figure around the $200M mark "for a maximum budget for a season." Horner said, "A top-down way of dealing with costs is not the right way of doing it. Bottom-up is a better way." Horner said "absolutely everybody" who was present at last week's meeting agreed F1 needed to reduce costs but "a couple of teams" did not think a budget cap was the right way of addressing the issue.

Top teams Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes are all spending more than £200M ($332M) a year on their F1 programs, whereas teams such as Marussia and Caterham, which were at the back of the grid in '13, "exist on less than a third of that."

He also said that "the introduction of new turbo engines was driving costs even higher." Horner: "It's a bit stupid talking about controlling costs when we're inflicting ourselves with the most unbelievable cost hike the sport has ever seen" BBC

Lotus F1 Team Sells Reported Stake Of 10% To Russian Backer Yota Devices
Lotus F1 team Owner Genii Capital "has agreed to sell a stake in the squad to new Russian backer Yota Devices Company," according to Kabanovsky & Noble of AUTOSPORT.

The Enstone-based team announced a sponsorship deal with YotaPhone last week. But as well as using its brand to enhance the profile of its mobile phone company, Yota Devices "has bought a minority shareholding in Lotus too."

It is not clear "how big the stake is," but sources have suggested that it is around 10%. Although Lotus "would not confirm the buy-in," a spokesperson for Yota Devices revealed that "the tie-up with the team included an investment plan."

Spokesperson Kirill Lubnin said, "It is not a sponsorship, we have bought a stake." AUTOSPORT

Haas Says He Is Serious About Fielding An F1 Team
NASCAR team co-Owner Gene Haas insisted Monday that "he is serious about fielding an F1 team based in North Carolina, on the same land in Kannapolis that houses the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR team he co-owns with Tony Stewart," according to the NEW ZEALAND HERALD.

Haas: "We want to be an American team. We think that has the most sizzle to it." Haas, through Haas Racing Development, paid a $5,000 application fee to F1's governing body during an open application period.

He said, "[F1 CEO Bernie] Ecclestone doesn't think I have enough money to do this. He doesn't think we will get the license. So my chances probably aren't that great of a shot."

So does he have enough money for an F1 team? Haas said, "I won't know until I try. If you don't try, you'll never fail.

The Europeans have their way of doing things, and we as Americans have our way of doing things. I think we could be competitive and successful." NZ HERALD

Lewis Hamilton

Quotes from Day 1 of Jerez testing
Jenson Button predicted that the first day of pre-season testing would be "hilarious"… sadly, it wasn't the remotest bit funny.

"The F1 W05 emerged for its first run at precisely 09:00 when the track was declared open," said the Mercedes team in a statement. "Lewis completed four single-lap install runs in the early stages, before gradually building into longer stints. A front wing failure on his 18th lap ended Lewis' running for the day early."

"For me it's an incredibly positive start to be the first car out on track and completing a good number of laps," said Hamilton in the same statement, a comment that might lead some to dub the appendage on the front of his W05 Pinocchio. "Other teams have been going out for single-lap runs, starting a few hours after we had first hit the track, so to have started running through our test program was very encouraging.

"The car feels quite good, especially considering it's so early in our program, so overall it's been a positive day. Of course, it's unfortunate to end the day early when everyone has worked so hard and we had looked like easily completing the most mileage of anyone here today, but we'll make that track time back and it's better to have these things happen now than in Melbourne. I'm really proud of the team for what they've achieved in getting us here and we'll keep pushing."

"Incidents like this happen and that's why we are here, to find them before we go racing," said Toto Wolff. "We completed 18 laps and got through our system checks successfully. The car now needs to be repaired, which is a challenge in itself at the start of winter testing with regards to the number of spare parts available. However, it's our job to cope with those challenges.

"To conclude our day's running with a front wing failure was an unfortunate end to what had, to that point, been a very positive start to our winter," added Paddy Lowe. "We were the first team to send a car out on track, on the dot at 0900 this morning, and were gradually extending the length of the runs when the incident occurred. Lewis' initial feedback was positive once he was able to complete some timed laps, which is a promising indicator for the basic package.

"Concerning the failure itself, we are still analyzing its cause, and this process, coupled with the repairs to the car, have brought an end to our running today. The teams at Brackley and Brixworth did a fantastic job to prepare the car for running this morning and tomorrow we hope to start adding to what is already a useful number of laps completed. There is a lot of data for us to analyze overnight and the learning curve this winter will be very steep."

"Today was a challenging start to the MP4-29's test and development program," admitted McLaren, a masterpiece of understatement. "Along with other teams, we faced difficulties readying our new car for the first winter test.

"Despite firing up successfully at the MTC last week, the car was predominantly affected by electrical issues during the day," the Woking outfit admitted. "The subsequent dismantling, inspection and re-installation of several major components ultimately meant we were unable to conduct any running today. We're re-installing key systems on the car overnight, with the expectation that Jenson will begin the car's installation program tomorrow."

"We had a lot of new things to learn today" said Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen. "Even if we would have liked to do more laps, I think that for a first day it was alright. Towards the end, when the track was damp, we chose not to take any risks. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us, but all in all, we are pleased with our first day."

"It wasn't an ideal start to the day," Valtteri Bottas admitted, "but the positive thing is that the team did a great job to fix the problems we found overnight and we got the car working well to complete a few laps this afternoon.

"The car matched my expectations on track with more torque," he continued. "It feels like a very different car compared to last year in the way it handles as well as the power. After only a few laps we found a few things we can improve which is also good, so we need to start working on those things tomorrow.

"We had a few electrical issues today which, combined with needing to replace a sensor critical to the functioning of the Internal Combustion Engine, delayed our running," said Rod Nelson, the Grove outfit's Chief Test & Support Engineer. "Despite this, we were able to complete a number of installation laps and one timed lap, and I now feel we are in good shape for tomorrow. The team have worked well to address the problems we had today and we are now focused on working through our program for the remaining days."

"As expected it has been quite a slow day for everybody," said Sergio Perez, the Mexican having completed 11 laps on his way to fourth quickest on the sheets. "The main job was to learn as much as possible each time the car went out so that we could identify and solve any issues. It was not really possible to get a feeling for the car because we only did a small number of laps, but the important thing is that the car is up and running."

"Today's laps were a key first step for the development of the VJM07," added Andrew Green, the Silverstone outfit's Technical Director. "There's still a long way to go, but we have been able to start checking all the new systems on the car, especially the power unit and the gearbox. There have been a few teething problems, which is to be expected with a new car, but we've already learned a great deal in just one day. The plan for tomorrow is more of the same as we continue to get miles on the car."

"It would be easy to say things did not go well today, because the car stopped, because we didn't use full power and therefore I did not get a chance to see what the car feels like," said Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne. "However, that is the wrong way to look at things, because we expected plenty of difficulties, especially learning about how the new type of power unit works.

"In fact, I would say this was a positive day," he continued, "because just getting the car on track was an achievement, so the team can be pleased with that as it was down to their hard work. From my point of view, it was also interesting to work with my new race engineers for the first time and to be back enjoying the atmosphere of the Formula 1 paddock.

"Now, we will spend a lot of time looking at all this data tonight and then Daniil will move the program forward tomorrow. Overall, a satisfactory start to the season in very difficult conditions."

"It was a big achievement to get our car on track on the first day of testing, and I am proud that I was the first one to drive it," said Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez. "Especially because of all the rule changes, it is very complex but the team has done a good job. The feeling in the car is not what I have been used to. The engine and the power it produces and the sound are very different, but we will get used to that. It's just a different characteristic.

"It was important to get some running today," he added. "These four days of testing are to see if all the systems are working, and that's the most important. It is way too early to comment on the drivability. We will get there during the second and third per-season tests in Bahrain. We will get the electronics and everything else sorted first and I think we are going in a good way to achieve that."

"The main target today was to get the car on track and the team has done a brilliant job over the winter to accomplish that on time," added, Giampaolo Dall'Ara, the Hinwil outfit's Head of Track Engineering. "Obviously with the significant changes there were issues that needed to be solved throughout the day. We have to understand and analyze those properly, which is why we couldn't run that much today. What we did today was a good achievement for the team and now we have a lot to work on for tomorrow."

"We did a total of three laps today so it was difficult to get an impression of what the new car is like," said Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. "We weren't quite ready this morning and things took a little bit longer than expected. But considering the total amount of running we saw today I think everybody is in a similar position. The laps we did were just to run the car and get everything up to temperature, but it was impossible to get a feeling for it today. There's still a lot we can go through tonight. Even if you don't do much running there's plenty of work."

"The packaging of these new cars is obviously vastly different to what we've had in the past," admitted Race Engineering Coordinator, Andy Damerum, "so working on them is a learning curve and we spent most of today correcting a problem we discovered overnight. We eventually got it sorted in time to get out on track and we put in a handful of laps, with Seb doing his installation lap on inters because of a brief shower beforehand.

"While that might not sound the most successful outing, even those few laps have given us a wealth of data to have a look at, so it's been a valuable, if tricky, day. I think it's been a similar story up and down the pit lane. It's a voyage of discovery for everyone and it will take time to get up to speed with the cars. Seb will be back in the car tomorrow. It's forecast to rain, though that won't affect what we're looking to get done."

"Back to basics. No fancy launch," tweeted Tony Fernandes, in another masterpiece of understatement. However, in the art of understatement the Malaysian businessman was given a run by his new signing, Marcus Ericsson…

"I'm very proud to have completed my first lap as an F1 driver today," he said, a classic, considering that's all he actually completed, one lap.

"I want to thank everyone in the team for working so hard to get the car ready for day one in Jerez," he continued. "We'd planned to unveil it before the track opened this morning but put that back until later in the afternoon after a few problems with the final car assembly, but that was to be expected with so much new technology on the car.

"The reaction to the car has been huge," her continued, "people either love it or hate it, but for me it's not really important what it looks like as what counts is how quick it is. If it's fast then I really don't care if it's the worst looking thing out there, if it's slow but beautiful then what's the point of that? We obviously won't know really where we are until quali in Australia, and one installation lap on day one isn't going to tell us a lot about the car, but to have got that first lap out of the way and on today two is a good feeling, and, for me, a positive way to start my life as an F1 driver."

"F1's new era began today and I'm pleased we were part of the day one action," added Cyril Abiteboul, "albeit in a small way with one installation lap completed. That lap is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work by everyone in our team, working flat out back in the UK and here in Spain and I want to thank everybody for helping us achieve our first goal today. It was also good to see how calm Marcus was today with a lot going on around him. He's been positive all day and when he was told it was time to get in the car for his first lap as an F1 driver he was just as calm as ever and that's a good sign for his season ahead.

"We were looking at running other installation laps towards the end of the day but an engine issue cut that short so now the night shift are coming on track, ready to push on through to tomorrow when we want to complete a more significant mileage."

As we said, "worst first day of testing… EVER!

McLaren confirms Boullier as 'racing director'
(GMM) As was widely predicted, Lotus' newly-departed team boss Eric Boullier has moved to McLaren.

The great British team announced the news on Wednesday, just as Jenson Button finally gave the all-new MP4-29 its track debut at Jerez, after a day of technical problems on Tuesday.

The media statement made no mention of existing team principal Martin Whitmarsh, cementing speculation he has been left out of McLaren's plans altogether by returning supremo Ron Dennis.

McLaren said Frenchman Boullier is the new 'racing director', with an insider saying he will definitely be existing 'sporting director' Sam Michael's new superior.

"Eric will ultimately report to the chief executive officer of McLaren Racing, an all-new position, whose yet-to-be-appointed occupant will in turn report directly to Ron Dennis," the statement said.

The fact McLaren is still to announce a chief executive will only fuel speculation Ross Brawn is eventually heading to Woking.

Dennis commented: "My intention is that from now on everyone at McLaren Racing will understand their responsibilities and accountabilities, focusing on their specific areas of expertise, in keeping with those values, principles and mindset."

"I'm firmly of the belief that, once McLaren Racing's restructured senior management team has been assembled, together we'll begin the march back to full competitiveness, quickly and professionally, harnessing the fantastic depth of talent that exists within our organization," he added.

Manager denies doctors to end Schumacher coma
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has played down reports the Grenoble hospital is preparing to bring the great German out of his month-long coma.

The news was reported by France's influential sports daily L'Equipe, following an extended period in which official information about former Mercedes and Ferrari driver Schumacher, 45, had dried up as his medical condition stabilized.

But L'Equipe on Wednesday reported that Schumacher has now entered a recovery phase, with doctors aiming to gradually ease the seven time world champion out of his deep state of induced coma.

"I stress again that any statements about Michael's health that do not originate from the treating medical team or his management are to be regarded as speculation," Schumacher's manager Sabine Kehm said in a new press statement.

"I repeat that we will not comment on such speculation."

Ecclestone pushing for 'double points' in three races
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has written a letter to F1's eleven teams, arguing that the controversial new 'double points' rule should be extended to the final three races of the season.

Three races was always the F1 chief executive's plan, but many team bosses refused to agree and so just installing the Abu Dhabi finale as the double points venue was the compromise outcome.

But Ecclestone, 83, is trying again to push his original plan through, appealing directly in writing to the F1 teams because a change at such a late date would require total unanimity up and down pitlane.

According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, the letter seeks approval for 'double points' to be awarded not just in Abu Dhabi next year, but also Austin and Brazil.

But the vote even of Ecclestone's friend and ally Christian Horner, the Red Bull team boss, is unlikely.

He thinks double points at three races next year would turn the title race "pretty much into a lottery".

Not only that, the small teams are reportedly also skeptical, as the allocation of double points will mean expensive car development late in the season will ramp up even more than usual.

And the fact that FIA entry fees for the following season are decided on the basis of points scored is reportedly also a turn-off for teams, as the 'double points' scheme would simply ramp up already escalated costs.

World champion Sebastian Vettel on Tuesday slammed double points as "nonsense".

"It would be like in football if they changed the rules by saying that a goal scored in the last five minutes counted double," he told F1's official website.

"Nobody would think of something bizarre like that."

Higher top speeds expected in 2014
(GMM) The engines may be smaller and quieter, but formula one cars will actually be faster in a straight line in 2014.

That is the expectation of Force India's technical boss Andy Green, when contemplating the mammoth rule changes over the winter.

Not only the engine rules have changed, but the FIA has also dramatically reduced the amount of downforce.

But although downforce levels were similarly attacked in 1998 and again in 2009, Green said that the huge changes for 2013 are "crucially different".

"The downforce loss is in the same region and is quite significant," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"But this time the drag has also been dramatically reduced, where in the past the drag stayed the same while downforce was going down."

Asked if that means top speeds will be higher in 2014, Green agreed: "Yes. I expect the cars to be about 15kph faster."

Marussia on track for Thursday debut
(GMM) Marussia is on course to debut its 2014 car on Thursday.

On Tuesday, having delayed the launch of the MR03 due to minor technical trouble, the team said the newly Ferrari-powered car was finally making its way from the UK to Jerez.

With some trucks and personnel already at the southern Spanish test track, Marussia's race team and Ferrari support crew arrived at Jerez on Wednesday morning.

And the new car is not far behind.

"The truck and car are making great progress — should be here mid to late afternoon," Marussia said on Twitter. "So a busy night ahead to prepare ourselves for its debut."

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