Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • The Pirelli blowout damaged Hamilton's suspension and gearbox

    Pirelli still investigating Hamilton tire failure

  • Brawn staying Mercedes team boss – Wolff
  • Renault doubts F1 return for Honda, Toyota
  • Long Beach bosses deny F1 rumors
  • Qatar wants pre-season F1 test in 2014
  • We need to make a lot more progress' – Martin Whitmarsh
  • Half Mercedes team on '14 car by May
  • Schumacher gets F1 run at Nordschleife
  • Pirelli set to put 2011 HRT up for auction

Pirelli still investigating Hamilton tire failure
(GMM) Pirelli is conducting a detailed investigation into the cause of Lewis Hamilton's tire failure in Bahrain last weekend.

In the wake of the Bahrain grand prix, we reported rumors that some were questioning the mere safety of the official F1 supplier's already-controversial 2013 tires.

Those rumors had been triggered mainly by Felipe Massa's two separate failures in the race on Sunday, but it is believed both problems were subsequently found to have been caused by simple punctures.

However, the practice failure on Hamilton's Mercedes is raising alarm bells.

"They (Pirelli) are not entirely convinced it is down to debris, as first thought," British journalist Byron Young wrote in the Mirror newspaper.

Young said the damaged tire was taken back to Pirelli's Milan headquarters for a forensic investigation.

The suspicion is that the tire failed because of the way Mercedes' car was handling the heavily-degrading Pirellis in Bahrain's high ambient conditions.

"The Hamilton tire is something that we need to look at a lot more to understand as we are not really sure about how it happened," Pirelli's Paul Hembery admitted.

"We will take all the pieces apart and do a full lab analysis," he said.

"That will either confirm our initial findings, or make us realize that we need to do something and have to implement some changes."

Brawn staying Mercedes team boss – Wolff
(GMM) Ross Brawn looks likely to keep his job at Mercedes, contrary to earlier speculation he will be replaced by McLaren's Paddy Lowe.

Former technical director Lowe is currently on McLaren 'gardening leave', amid the widespread paddock perception that he will arrive at Brackley in 2014.

But while earlier it was rumored he would replace fellow Briton Brawn in the top Mercedes job, team director and co-owner Toto Wolff is now hinting strongly that the 58-year-old will stay.

Asked by F1's official website what 'most useful lesson' he has learned in his short time so far at Mercedes, Austrian Wolff answered: "To understand what it needs to make Ross function — or how he functions."

Amid talk Brawn faces the axe, Mercedes newcomer Lewis Hamilton recently spoke out in support of his boss, insisting "I signed with him (Brawn) being here and I'm very happy working with him".

Wolff said: "I am not at all surprised. Everybody has the highest esteem for Ross and I would be completely mistaken were I to question Ross' technical skills — someone who has won seven or eight titles.

"Who am I in this respect?" he added. "I have been in formula one for only three years. So I completely agree with every word Lewis said."

Of course, Wolff's comments leave open the door for a change of role for Brawn, with Lowe perhaps arriving to be team boss and Brawn staying in a purely technical capacity.

But Wolff insisted that Brawn is doing a good job as boss.

"(He is) extremely structured," he said. "Accurate. Focused on sustainable results and not on short-term optimization. An excellent manager who gives his people room.

"Ross is team principal and I don't want to change that," added Wolff.

"We need to get stability in the team as we have a mountain of work to do. From where this team is coming it is important to have as many good people as possible — that is my focus in all these discussions."

Renault doubts F1 return for Honda, Toyota
(GMM) One of F1's existing engine bosses has questioned rumors Honda and Toyota could be set to re-join the sport in the foreseeable future.

Amid strong rumors Honda will become McLaren's works partner in 2015, and possibly supply customer V6s to Sauber, another rumor doing the rounds in Bahrain was that Honda's traditional rival Toyota might also come back.

Both Japanese marques withdrew their works teams amid the global financial crisis late last decade, but could now be interested in F1's futuristic ERS-powered turbo V6 rules that will come into force next season.

"Yes, even Toyota is toying with a comeback," Swiss newspaper Blick's veteran correspondent Roger Benoit said in Bahrain.

"The Japanese have Williams in sight, and they could get Japanese favorite Kamui Kobayashi back in a race cockpit."

Senior Renault engine figure Rob White, however, doubts not only the Toyota rumors, but also the reports that Honda's plans are already well advanced.

"If they actually wanted to come back," he is quoted by Speed Week, "then why not take part in the planning meetings?

"We have never received a request in this regard — the meetings are always only represented by Ferrari, Mercedes and us.

"But Honda and Toyota could easily ask the FIA for permission and join in."

Asked whether Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault were always alone in the turbo V6 planning meetings, White answered: "No.

"The first project meetings were held four years ago, and the interest was great — Audi, Cosworth, Ilmor, Honda, Toyota, Mecachrome and others.

"However, as it got more specific, only (Craig Pollock's) Pure was left, but now it's only us three.

"I simply cannot imagine that a company will enter in 2015 without having wanted a say in the rules," added White.

Long Beach bosses deny F1 rumors
(GMM) The bosses of the iconic US street race have denied reports formula one is interested in adding Long Beach to its annual calendar.

Reports this month said that with IndyCar's contract expiring, Bernie Ecclestone and F1 sponsor agency chief Zak Brown have expressed interest in snapping up the California event.

These days, former McLaren driver Michael Andretti promotes some IndyCar races and he observed: "Why would they sell it?"

He was referring to Long Beach race owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe.

The president and CEO of the race, Jim Michaelian, said: "This is a story that keeps bouncing around every year or so, despite the fact that the race isn't for sale and there's been no contact between anyone and Kevin about a sale.

"Nothing is happening," he told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

"To keep speculating, playing this 'what if' game, just encourages more rumors that don't amount to anything," he added.

Earlier, Kalkhoven had said he would only consider selling Long Beach if "stupid money" was being proposed.

"Gerry and I are not interested in selling Long Beach," he added.

Qatar wants pre-season F1 test in 2014
(GMM) Qatar has emerged as F1's next likely new host.

We reported last October that the Arab state, already the host of a floodlit MotoGP race at the Losail circuit outside capital Doha, was looking to host "F1 teams (for) pre-season testing and other activities".

Indeed, F1 race director Charlie Whiting inspected the circuit at the time and "was impressed with what he saw", Qatar motor racing federation chief Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah said.

Now, the Spanish sports newspaper El Mundo Deportivo is reporting that Spain "may lose its monopoly of winter testing next season", following the most recent winter of bad weather in the country.

Correspondent Raymond Blancafort said Bahrain has already applied to host a pre-season test in 2014, while "Abu Dhabi and Qatar have also forwarded their desire" to host F1 teams next winter.

The El Mundo Deportivo report said Qatar and Abu Dhabi could have the advantage, because of their capacity to floodlight the circuit and therefore provide the opportunity for testing in a range of track and ambient temperatures.

Moreover, the Middle East would almost guarantee good weather and dry running, whilst the eager circuit hosts offer tempting conditions in terms of top facilities and free rent.

Pirelli's Paul Hembery is quoted as saying: "We are in favor of change.

"I discussed this with Bernie (Ecclestone) and several of the teams (last) weekend.

"It would be good to test in conditions more representative of what we find during the season, and it would help the teams to get a better understanding of the tires," he added.

We need to make a lot more progress' – Martin Whitmarsh
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says his team's performance is still not good enough despite signs of recovery at the last two races.

At the first race of the season the MP4-28 was over 1.5s off the pace and Jenson Button was only able to salvage two points from the weekend with a ninth-place finish. In Malaysia there were the first signs of improvements before Button finished fifth in China and Sergio Perez took sixth in Bahrain.

After struggling for performance during practice and qualifying last weekend in Bahrain, McLaren's race pace surpassed expectations but Whitmarsh said it was still not good enough.

"It was a little bit stronger but we are still not there," he said. "Yes, we've made a little bit of progress but we shouldn't get carried away. Our drivers did a great job of racing [in Bahrain] and the team did a reasonable job but the car is not quick enough at the moment. We've made some progress but we need to make a lot more."

Whitmarsh said the hotter conditions in Bahrain did not help McLaren after Button finished tenth on a four-stop strategy.

"I wouldn't say so [that the hotter conditions helped], no. Certainly Jenson wouldn't say that, he was struggling with his tires. With Jenson I was a little bit surprised, but sometimes you just get a set of tires and they just don't [work as expected].

"After that second stop, from fairly early on, he felt he had thermal degradation and he was struggling. To be honest, that was when Sergio came up behind and he felt he was stronger and quicker at that moment and they raced and that's what we pay them to do."

Whitmarsh said one positive to take from the weekend was that Perez managed to answer his critics, even if he overstepped the mark at one point fighting team-mate Button.

"It's a big positive, undoubtedly. He's joined McLaren and been, arguably, out-thought, out-raced by Jenson, who's done a great job. People want to get on his back about that and he's a McLaren driver and he's going to have some pressure. I think it was an exciting race, he overstepped the mark when he hit Jenson from behind, but apart from that it was robust and tough and he fought his way to sixth place. It's got to be good for him and I'm delighted for him. We've had a bit of a chat about some of it, but I think he'll come out of it stronger." ESPNF1

Half Mercedes team on '14 car by May
Mercedes will have switched more than half its workforce on to its 2014 Formula 1 car by May, says the firm's motorsport boss Toto Wolff.

With the 2014 F1 regulations featuring the biggest technical changes in many years, as the current V8 engines are replaced by 1.6-litre V6 turbos, teams face a balancing act deciding how many resources to allocate to the next car without compromising their current campaign.

In an interview with the official F1 website, Wolff made it clear that 2014 will shortly have equal resources to developing the present W04.

"We're already working on 2014 and we'll gradually raise the percentage of people working on next year's car," he said.

"I would say that in May we will reach a point where more than 50 per cent will work on the 2014 car."

Wolff is sure most teams not at the front of the 2013 standings will follow Mercedes' example in time.

"Here is no doubt that at a point in the summer everybody will switch their main resources to the 2014 car, as this is a very complex and complicated machine," he said.

"Of course it all depends on where you are in the standings. Those who are fighting for the title will of course concentrate longer on this year's car."

AUTOSPORT gets early look at 2014 Mercedes engine

But Wolff added that he did not want the 2013 championship to be neglected, and still had minimum expectations.

"I want to be among the four top teams in the constructors' championship and have a driver among the top four as well," he said. Yahoo Eurosport

Schumacher gets F1 run at Nordschleife
Michael Schumacher will complete a lap of the legendary Nordschleife circuit in a 2011 Mercedes Formula 1 car on 19 May, with the seven-time World Champion set to take to the track shortly before the start of the 24-hour race around the Nurburgring.

Schumacher, who retired from the sport last season, has taken on an ambassadorial role with the German marque and is set to complete a variety of promotional events.

"I have a lot of fond memories of the Nurburgring and am really looking forward to giving fans and friends from my home town of Kerpen, which is quite close to the Nürburgring, something to remember as they see me drive by," explained Schumacher.

"But it will be a fantastic experience for me too, driving along the Nordschleife in a state-of–the-art Formula 1 Silver Arrow, particularly in view of the fact that the Silver Arrow’s legend began here. Posting a lap in a modern Silver Arrow on the most beautiful and most testing circuit in the world, what a brilliant mix – it’s every motor racing driver’s dream!"

It will be the first time since 2007, when Nick Heidfeld completed a demonstration run for BMW, that a modern Formula 1 car tackles the 20.81-km (12.93-mi) German circuit – see video below.

Pirelli set to put 2011 HRT up for auction
Pirelli is set to put a 2011 HRT chassis up for auction on eBay. The tire supplier acquired the car when the outfit put its assets up for sale earlier in the year and had been planning to use it for promotional purposes, but it has proven unpopular.

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm, it's a bit of a shame really," Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery explained to the Reuters news agency.

"Our marketing department said nobody seems to want to use it. So I said let's put it on eBay for charity. We're trying to find a category on eBay for an F1 car and we'll probably run it for quite a few months to see what money we can raise for charity."

HRT closed its doors at the end of the 2012 Formula 1 campaign, with most of its cars and equipment being purchased by a Madrid-based car recycling firm.

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