Latest F1 news in brief: Thursday

  • Horner says it's too late now
    Horner says it's too late now

    'Too late' to call off 2017 revolution – teams

  • Amid political tension, F1 to meet on Thursday
  • Verstappen could be at Mercedes or Ferrari in 2017 – father
  • Vandoorne preparing for possible second race in China
  • Vettel's Bahrain engine cannot be fixed – reports
  • Imola takes position as Monza alternative
  • Sauber late with staff payments again
  • Ferrari To Receive Biggest Share Of F1's $965M Payout Based On '15 Performance
  • Force India Waiting On Formula One's '17 Rules For European Union Complaint
  • Boullier: Alonso should be ready for China

'Too late' to call off 2017 revolution – teams
(GMM) Speculation the touted rules revolution for 2017 could be called off at the eleventh hour are being played down on all sides.

Amid suggestions in Bahrain that eight of the eleven teams are in fact now opposed, FIA president Jean Todt insisted that the April 30 decision deadline will be met.

Two of the three teams still in favor are Red Bull-owned Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, with the latter's boss Franz Tost saying deferring is no longer an option.

"To come now and say 'This is not good' is too late — because this (the 2017 car blueprint) has been defined."

The other team still in favor is McLaren, who came up with the basic blueprint of the 'compromise' rules — halfway between the original ultra-fast concept and what will now form the basis of the cars for 2017.

"It is not carried as far as we would have liked – it's a compromise solution – so let's see," Red Bull's Christian Horner told the official F1 website. "It is better than standing still."

Still, with the strategy group split into three voting blocks – the teams, FOM and the FIA – there remains some lingering uncertainty.

"I think I should have applied 'hopefully' to both," said Williams deputy Claire Williams, when speaking about not only the 2017 chassis rules but also changes to the power unit regulations.

"We have a strategy group meeting that's just been scheduled coming up, and as we all know in formula one, things are fluid. I said 'hopefully' just to temper it. I don't think you should put too much emphasis on that word," she said.

Asked if there is a chance the strategy group will shoot down the 2017 plans altogether, Williams answered: "I doubt it. I think it's becoming far too late in the day.

"I think we pushed the date anyway and we need to get these signed off if we're all to be ready for 2017."

Arrivabene: Ferrari and Mercedes are not enemies, we are opponents
Arrivabene: Ferrari and Mercedes are not enemies, we are opponents

Amid political tension, F1 to meet on Thursday
(GMM) Amid a poisonously political climate in F1, the sport's stakeholders will get together on Thursday in yet another bid to fix the 2016 qualifying format debacle.

The meeting was scheduled last Sunday in Bahrain, where the teams were told by the governing FIA to consider an all-new 'aggregate' format for China and beyond.

It comes after team bosses really wanted to simply revert to the 2015 format, but were overruled.

"We should be trying to improve things," Williams technical boss Pat Symonds is quoted by the German broadcaster RTL. "But if we've done the wrong thing, we should at least be able to admit it."

But the qualifying impasse needs to be seen within the prism of F1's political situation at present.

Force India and Sauber have complained to the European Commission about the sport's allegedly illegal governance and income distribution, and Bernie Ecclestone may in fact support them in trying to get the existing agreements torn up.

"Ferrari will not win any world championship until 2020 if we don't get rid of these damn hybrid engines," the F1 supremo told Germany's Sport Bild this week.

"No car in formula one history has been as dominant as this Mercedes," he added.

That explains the urgent desire to reform qualifying with a format that shakes up the grid, but also interesting is the timing of leaked information about the formerly highly-confidential income distribution model.

The leak reveals that although Ferrari finished second in the constructors' standings last year, it is receiving $191 million in FOM income compared to Mercedes' $171 million.

The extra money is from controversial bonus payments based on Ferrari's prestige and history.

"These unfair side payments put the independent teams at a perpetual sporting and economic disadvantage and directly harm the sport," a briefing note published by the Times newspaper read.

"Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams are guaranteed millions of dollars every year regardless of performance. They will receive these payments even if they are last over the line at each race," the note added.

Ecclestone is reportedly enraged that, as well as receiving the lion's share of the income set aside for teams, Ferrari and Mercedes have set up an alliance or 'cartel' and are effectively running F1 politically.

"It's absolute nonsense to say such a thing," Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"It's like any other sport where, on the track, you fight to the limits but after the match you go out together for dinner. That's all," he said of the so-called alliance.

"I know what goes on in the minds of some people, but Ferrari and Mercedes are not enemies, we are opponents," he added.

Verstappen eyes Mercedes or Ferrari
Verstappen eyes Mercedes or Ferrari

Verstappen could be at Mercedes or Ferrari in 2017 – father
(GMM) Max Verstappen's father and manager has ramped up his bid for a top seat in formula one for 2017.

In the past days and weeks, bosses for Mercedes and Ferrari have admitted their interest in the 18-year-old Dutch sensation.

It comes amid speculation Verstappen could be a free agent for 2017 unless Red Bull promotes him from Toro Rosso to the energy drink outfit's top team.

"It's a nice situation to have," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told F1's official website.

"We don't have an issue with competitive drivers in the next few years. It is a healthy situation, it's healthy competition and it keeps all the drivers honest," he added.

That is not a denial that Russian Daniil Kvyat could be relegated to Toro Rosso to make way for Verstappen, as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agrees he would be "very, very surprised" if Max is not a Red Bull driver in 2017.

For Max and his father Jos, it is an enviable situation.

"We know about Ferrari's interest in Max," former F1 driver Jos told the Spanish sports daily Marca, "but we have no rush. I think it's early for that.

"Next year Max is going to be in one of the top teams in the championship. And when I say top, I mean Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull."

Asked specifically if there is a chance Max could be at any one of those three teams, Jos answered: "Yes, absolutely.

"Not at the same (probability) level," he admitted, "because our first choice is Red Bull. In the team they are very happy with my son and I think that should be the way to go for Max at this time."

Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne preparing for possible second race in China
(GMM) Stoffel Vandoorne says he will remain race-ready ahead of next weekend's Chinese grand prix.

Although Fernando Alonso was getting CT scans done early last week, the Spaniard's chest injuries clearly caught McLaren by surprise once in Bahrain.

That is because when the FIA ruled him out of action on Thursday, reserve driver Vandoorne was thousands of kilometers away in Japan, testing his Super Formula car.

"At the beginning of the Japanese season there are only four days of testing, which is why we sent him there," McLaren team boss Eric Boullier is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"The (Super Formula) series is important for him as he needs to stay race sharp."

And now, the impressive Belgian rookie will need to be race-sharp again, as Alonso cannot get the green light to return next week in China until follow-up examinations by the FIA.

"I will be in the simulator tomorrow so I am a little calmer for the weekend," Vandoorne told Belgian radio Sporza.

"Next week I will go to China and we'll see if I'll be in the car or not."

Asked what his chances are, Vandoorne answered: "It's very difficult to say. Fernando will have more tests after the weekend and then a decision will be made.

"After my first race weekend, it won't be easy for me to be back on the sidelines, but I knew that's what my situation would be like this year," he said.

"Perhaps the race in Bahrain was my real test. I think I proved that I'm definitely ready for it. I made a good impression on the team and the F1 world, which can only help me for the future," Vandoorne added.

Sebastian Vettel's engine expires on pace lap in Bahrain
Sebastian Vettel's engine expires on pace lap in Bahrain

Vettel's Bahrain engine cannot be fixed – reports
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel is down to four power units for the remaining 19 races this year, following his smoky retirement on the parade lap in Bahrain.

Earlier, the Ferrari media insider Leo Turrini said the problem had been traced to an injector, but he now clarifies that the fault was actually caused by "a bug on the electronic mapping".

That is good news for the Maranello team, as the fix will presumably be easier.

"It was an electronic problem rather than the failure of a mechanical part," agreed a report in La Repubblica newspaper.

The report explained that the electronic glitch occurred in a certain gear at precise revs "causing a sort of blackout that affected the engine" so badly that it was damaged "irreparably".

"In China, Seb switches to power unit two", Turrini wrote in a follow-up post on his Quotidiano blog.

Meanwhile, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Ferrari is working on an innovative system for its F1 'power unit' called HCCI that would help the team track down Mercedes' power advantage, particularly in qualifying.

Whether it will come quick enough for Sebastian Vettel's 2016 title challenge is unclear, but F1 legend Gerhard Berger said the German will not lose his cool.

"Seb will not lose his patience," the former F1 driver told Sport Bild.

"He did not think he would have such a good first year, so I assume that he was ready to say the world championship would take three years."

But F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said alarmingly this week that he thinks Mercedes' current advantage is so great that Ferrari will not win a title by 2020.

Vettel replied: "My contract is not even that long, so that's the first thing I need to sort out! Apart from that, by then I will already be an old man.

"So yes, I am confident," he smiled when asked if he can win the title soon.

Imola cannot afford F1 anymore than Monza can
Imola cannot afford F1 anymore than Monza can

Imola takes position as Monza alternative
(GMM) Imola is ramping up its bid to keep Italy on the F1 calendar.

Amid historic Monza's troubled negotiations with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the former San Marino GP venue Imola has put its hand up as a potential alternative.

Uberto Selvatico Estense, boss of Formula Imola, travelled to Bahrain last week for talks with Ecclestone but insisted it is not a move to "steal" F1 from Monza.

"Ecclestone has given attention to Imola," he is quoted by Il Secolo XIX newspaper, "and in our meeting in Bahrain issued a 'wait and see' in anticipation of answers relevant to the drafting of the 2017 calendar.

"We want to return to this arena (F1)," La Repubblica also quotes Estense as saying, "and we presented to Mr. Ecclestone our passion.

"We have no crystal ball, but I believe that the time is quite tight for any decision affecting our near future," he added.

Sauber late with staff payments again
(GMM) Sauber has fallen behind once again with its full salary payments to its 300 staff in Switzerland.

Boss Monisha Kaltenborn was not in Bahrain last weekend, amid reported talks with potential buyers and rumors cash flow problems could shortly end the struggling Hinwil based team's 23-year F1 adventure.

Now, a month after similar reports about the February payments to staff, Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper claims Sauber has once again fallen behind for March.

Team spokesman Robert Hopoltseder confirmed: "The worries of the last few weeks are not off the table. We currently live from hand-to-mouth."

F1 team payouts
F1 team payouts

Ferrari To Receive Biggest Share Of F1's $965M Payout Based On '15 Performance
Ferrari will receive more "money than any other team in Formula 1" for its '15 performance despite finishing second in the championship, according to Rencken & Barretto of AUTOSPORT.

Formula One Management collates revenues from "hosting fees, media rights and other streams such as trackside sponsorship and hospitality."

The '15 total was $965M and this will be distributed across 10 teams through nine monthly payments from April with a final "check" payment — when "definitive revenues have been calculated" — early in '17. There are constructors' championship bonus (CCB) payments for four teams — Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren, which have been agreed in separate deals.

There is also a long-standing team payment for Ferrari and "other fixed prize fund payouts such as a heritage bonus for Williams and negotiated payments for Red Bull Racing and Mercedes."

This year, Ferrari will earn an estimated $192M, which is almost 20% of the total.

Reigning champion Mercedes won 16 grands prix, including 13 "one-twos," compared to Ferrari's three wins but earned just 17.7% of the total fund with $171M. AUTOSPORT

SKY SPORTS reported F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has described Ferrari as F1's "version of The Rolling Stones" while defending the premium paid to the team in recognition of its status as "F1's oldest team."

Ecclestone said that he would "not have any qualms" if the near $1B prize pot was divided up differently in future — although he suggested "Ferrari is Formula 1" and "still warranted a special status."

He said, "As far as we've concerned, this year we will pay the teams collectively close on a billion dollars. So it really wouldn't make any difference to us who gets that money. No difference at all. If it's shared equally it's alright.

"If it's shared in a way like Ferrari benefit a bit because they've been racing a lot longer than anybody else. And in the end, Ferrari is Formula 1, so they should be [paid more]. If we were pop people I'd want to have The Rolling Stones because they're the number one." Sky Sports

Bob Fernley
Bob Fernley

Force India Waiting On Formula One's '17 Rules For European Union Complaint
Force India is waiting for Formula One's '17 rules to be finalized before taking the next step in its "complaint to the European Union about how the sport is run and revenues distributed," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS.

Force India Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley said, "We're not looking at moving that forward until the end of the month, until we've seen all the changes that come in and we know exactly where things are."

Force India, controlled by Indian magnate Vijay Mallya, and Swiss rivals Sauber "filed a joint complaint last September asking the EU competition authorities to investigate the sport's governance."

At stake is the "amount of money top teams like Ferrari receive from the commercial rights holder as well as their influence on decision making, with the possibility that contracts will have to be redrawn."

Fernley said, "We submitted our complaint. The complaint has then gone to CVC (commercial rights holders). CVC have responded back (to the EU), which we have a copy of, and then we have to reply again to that final part of it."

The sport's core Strategy Group of governing body, six top teams and commercial rights holder "agreed in February to postpone to April 30 the deadline for finalization of the 2017 sporting and technical regulations."

Force India and Sauber argue that the Strategy group amounts to a "questionable cartel."

A briefing note issued after the formal complaint to the EU spoke of "unfair" side payments and "unlawful practices." Reuters

Alonso hopes to be ready at Shanghai
Alonso hopes to be ready at Shanghai

Boullier: Alonso should be ready for China
After McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso was declared unfit to race at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Racing Director Eric Boullier has said that the Spaniard should be ready for the Chinese GP.

Alonso was involved in a crash with Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The following Thursday before the Bahrain race weekend commenced, FIA doctors decided not give him the Double World Champion the go-ahead.

However, as the race in China approaches, Boullier is confident that the 34-year-old will be back in the Honda-powered car in time for the Grand Prix.

"Yeah, I think so. He is going to go again for some scans and then the FIA will inspect them and decide yes or no," he told ESPN.

On Alonso's replacement in Sakhir, Boullier added that Stoffel Vandoorne impressed everyone at McLaren by scoring their first points of the season.

"It was a good experience [for Alonso] as well. He enjoyed being around and he made some very nice comments on the radio," the Frenchman revealed.

"You know what he went through and he is obviously only going to be better, if he is racing again, which we don't wish, but if he has to, the team is now confident he can do the job.

"I think having done such a weekend for him it is a massive boost to his confidence. It is also a boost I guess for his career. I know a lot of people have some eyes on him. So it is good for him."

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