Wehrlein reaches Sauber deal
Mercedes test driver Pascal Wehrlein has reached a deal to move to Sauber for this season. According to Motorsport.com the German is to partner Marcus Ericson, this is seen as the key move as it allows Valtteri Bottas to replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.
Wehrlein’s announcement as a Sauber driver will now make the announcement of Bottas at Mercedes now inevitable, the Fin it’s understood is set to be confirmed by the team in the next few days. Mercedes were reluctant to promote the German because of his lack of experience in Formula One.
According to ‘good sources’ says the website, Wehrlein and Mercedes have agreed terms however the final details of the contract are still to be finalised, but that should be done in the next few days. Williams are set to announce as soon as Bottas goes to Mercedes that Felipe Massa is to postpone his retirement.
The announcements are expected to be announced on the same day, this is ensure that no teams risks being left in an awkward position. If and when the announcements are made, it will only leave the two Manor seats to be filled.
Regulation changes needed to mix it up – Horner
Red Bull team Principal Christian Horner says that this year’s regulation changes are needed to mix up the grid for the good of the sport. Mercedes have dominated the sport for the past three years, winning the majority of races.
Last season, Red Bull appeared to have closed the gap up and managed to race with the sliver arrows. However Mercedes actually had a higher win ratio last season.
Horner told ESPN “I think you can see the trend in viewing audiences, where if you know who is going to be on pole position and who is going to win race – and Mercedes has taken 51 wins in 59 over the last three years – it’s an unhealthy equation.”
The Red Bull boss says that the sport should be aiming for races like in Mexico and Brazil at every race. He added “Hopefully next year will shuffle the pack a little bit and we really need two or three teams heading into a race with a chance of winning.”
But says that the regulation changes, are not as radical as in 2009 and admits it may not give the reshuffle that the aim to saying that Mercedes could pull away again. Horner added that the regulations were ‘watered down’ by McLaren but still has confidence that they can deliver.
He added “The 2017 car looks great, it looks fantastic and like a Formula One car should. The only thing we need to address going forward is the acoustics, the sound.”
Massa return, a mistake – Alesi
Jean Alesi believes that Felipe Massa decision to not retire so he can replace Valtteri Bottas if and when it confirmed the Fin will replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes is a mistake.
It’s understood that Williams will only allow Bottas to break his contract should Massa return to the sport, despite retiring in November. Williams are not keen on signing Pascal Wehrlein as his replacement because they believe the German is too in-experienced.
Massa had an emotional send-off in Brazil, which included an emotional walk down the pit lane to the applause of fans and colleagues from other teams. Alesi believes for him to return because he has mentally prepared for life outside Formula One.
Alesi told Gazzetta dello Sport “Honestly to me this is a mistaken decision. Felipe has stopped, he’s turned a page. And what if he discovers that the Williams isn’t quick?”
Alesi added he can understand why Nico Rosber decided to walk away as world champion would decide to walk away from the sport. “To start with I thought the same as [Niki] Lauda; I was surprised and angry.”
“Let’s say I didn’t really get the logic of announcing your retirement the same week in which you won the title.” He added.
Ferrari ask for calcification on FRIC
A row has already broken out over the FRIC systems which Mercedes introduce in 2014 and whether it is still allowed under this year’s new regulations. Days before the Christmas break, its emerged that Ferrari had contacted the FIA for calcification.
Over the past few seasons Mercedes have used the system to take their huge advantage over the rest of the field, but its use is still being questioned going forward. Red Bull has also exploited the radical rake angles integral to its aerodynamic concept.
A letter from race director Charlie Whiting, to Ferrari’s chief designer Simone Resta circulated to all teams, said his team was considering a system that could replicate FRIC without a physical connection between the front and the rear of the car.
The issue appears to centre on article 3.15 of the technical regulations, which states “Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances.” It also states that it must remain ridged, have no aerodynamic influence and no part of the bodywork.
There are two simple ways of putting Ferrari arguments “1) displacement in a direction opposed to the applied load over some or all of its travel, regardless of the source of the stored energy used to achieve this.”
Or “A means by which some of the energy recovered from the forces and displacements at the wheel can be stored for release at a later time to extend a spring seat or other parts of the suspension assembly whose movement is not defined by the principally vertical suspension travel of the two wheels.”
Whiting response was “In our view any suspension system which was capable of altering the response of a cars’ suspension system in the way you describe in paragraphs 1) and 2) would be likely to contravene article 3.15 of the F1 technical regulations.”
This appears effectively outlaw the trick suspension, but further clarification is needed soon.
Haas has capacity to build chassis – Grosjean
Romain Grosjean believes that his team, Haas has now got the capacity to build a whole car itself. The American team has an agreement with engine supplier Ferrari which allows them to buy parts and use the teams windtunnel.
Haas also have their chassis supplied by Dallara. In their debut season the model proved successful with the team scoring 29 points to finish eighth overall in 2016. However the team appeared to dip in their performance following a strong debut in the middle part of the season.
Speaking to Autosport, Grosjean says he thinks the team has the capacity to build their car in house. He said “For now, we’re doing the model we’re doing. What’s the future is like, I don’t know.”
“We’ve got a factory ready in Kannapolis, there is a whole factory ready to have a Formula 1 team and build a car.” He added in the first year as a constructor you cannot develop yourself, as the cars as so complex.
Grosjean said the technical partnership with Ferrari was key to the team’s success in its debut season. “It’s a great experience to work with Ferrari and I’ve got to know the engineers and the system.” He added.
“We’re using most of their parts and it’s interesting to see what they’re working on and how I can help with my level, the way they operate, with the experience I’ve got.”
Haryanto hopes of return suffers blow
The hopes that Rio Haryanto had of returning to Formula One this season has suffered a setback after Indonesia’s state oil company Pertamina announced it was ending its sponsorship.
A spokeswoman for the company said “This year there will not be a continuation of participation by Pertamina in F1. Of course we regret this very much, but we have already made maximal efforts for Rio and Indonesia.”
She added that it had nothing to do with the fact that Pertamina could not meet a sponsorship deadline. Haryanto said in a text message that he had “not yet confirmed” his position and hoped to reach a decision as soon as possible.
Piers Hunnisett, who manages Haryanto, told the news agency Reuters “We are still working on a plan to keep Rio in Formula One. People in the Formula One world felt he did a good job and he deserves to be there.”
Hunnisett added that it would be a “great shame” if Haryanto missed out on a seat in 2017. He said they are looking at Sauber, however that would appear unlikely as Sauber require financial backing.
Haryanto lost his Manor seat in August last year because of a lack of funds. He spent much of the latter part of 2016 searching for funds, with Hunnisett saying he was confident of a return for the Indonesian.
Susie Wolff awarded MBE
Williams’s former test driver and Channel 4’s analyst Susie Wolff has been a MBE in the New Year’s Honours. Wolff was awarded the MBE for her work to get more women into motorsport.
Wolff was the first woman to drive at a race weekend for twenty two year when she drove for Williams in practice at the 2014 British Grand Prix. Wolff also took part in four tests and four practice sessions for the team. She retired from racing in 2015.
Wolff who has set up the Dare To Be Different campaign, is hoping that she can get more women into all areas of the sport. The campaign is supported by many teams, the media, the FIA and FOM.
Wolff who is expecting her first child with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, posted on Facebook “What a way to end 2016. Very humbled to receive an MBE in recognition of my service to women in sport. Like any female competitor, I simply aspired to compete on a level playing field.”
“I was able to chase that dream thanks to the never-ending support of my family and all those who backed me along the way.” Wolff has raced in F3 and for Mercedes in DTM for seven years before focusing on her Williams test role.