Mercedes not considering changing drivers
Mercedes Motorsport CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has insisted that the team is not considering replacing either Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas, despite both drivers being out of contract at the end of the seasons.
Hamilton is currently negotiating a new contract with the team, but both the team and the four times champion are in no hurry to get the deal done. While teammate Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to keep him on a long-term deal.
Wolff says that the team are only considering drivers currently in F1 and under contract with Mercedes, which also includes Force India driver Esteban Ocon, for the moment. Speaking to ESPN, Wolff said, “We are not looking at drivers outside of Mercedes at the moment because, first of all, we need to give our support to our two guys, that’s the priority.”
“It’s like if you’re happy with your wife, you don’t look elsewhere! We are with our two wives — or three [including Ocon] — and we are not looking at that.” But the team are unlikely to consider Susie Wolff or Nico Rosberg who while under contract with the team as ambassadors, have both retired.
Ocon’s contract is tied also to Force India’s powertrain contract, meaning Mercedes could struggle to ensure all its drivers find a suitable drive in 2019. “It’s a good problem to have, We are very satisfied with how Valtteri has been going these days.”
“Lewis, we don’t need to talk about, he’s the best of the current drivers in my opinion and then you have these kids growing up like Ocon and George. I am optimistic about the future Mercedes line-up.”
While Hamilton and Mercedes are insistent a deal will be done, the team and the four times champion have focused on other priority and their busy schedules.
Mercedes open to closer ties with customers
Toto Wolff has also indicated that Mercedes is open to the German manufacturer building closer ties with its customer teams like the one Ferrari has with Haas.
Mercedes currently supplies Force India with the power units, gearboxes and hydraulics while Williams only uses the power units and associated systems.
Williams backer Lawrence Stroll is keen to have a closer relationship and is pushing for the Grove team to use more Mercedes technology, and has already pitched the idea. But deputy team principal and Williams family board member Claire Williams has made it clear that she wants the team to remain independent and be perceived as a constructor.
Wolff says that Mercedes would consider a Haas-style deal if it made sense for all parties. He told Motorsport.com “I think we have seen that the system between Ferrari and Haas has worked, it has worked for both,” said Wolff.
“It’s an interesting revenue filler for Ferrari, and I think in terms of synergies, there is a lot you can work on, and it has functioned for Haas.” Wolff says that Williams is a good successful team and the question would be whether to collaborate with Williams or Force India.
Asked whether Mercedes could do such a deal next season, Wolff said: “We can do something for 2019. We have certain capacity.”
Wolff said it was too early to say whether Mercedes could work with both of its teams. Saying “We are not that far. The devil is in the detail,” he said. “It is not only about production, but it’s also it is about getting in order not to distract yourself, you need to do it properly.
He, however, indicated that this could make sense under the next set of regulations for 2021.
Saying that Mercedes would need time to ramp up production, Wolff added “it needs to be done in the right way because you need to get the balance right between distraction and really optimising the synergies.”
Magnussen clarifies “die in the car” comments
Kevin Magnussen has clarified the comments saying he would rather “die in the car” rather than hold back, insisting he has apologised to Pierre Gasly “many times” after their Azerbaijan Grand Prix incident.
After Sunday’s race in Baku, the Frenchman labelled the Haas driver “the most dangerous driver I have ever raced with” after their high-speed coming together, quotes from the Dane surfaced where he stated he had to be aggressive in the midfield – hinting that he was doing so on purpose.
Magnussen told Reuters “There’s nothing to lose if you’re 11th – go for it. Sometimes you have to be a lot more aggressive when you’re fighting out there.”
“I will give everything. I will die in the car. I won’t hold back. I would put my life on [the line]. Absolutely.” In a Tweeted image of a word document, he clarified his comments.
“The interview was done before the race in Baku and is not minded on the incident with Pierre in the race. I didn’t squeeze Pierre on purpose and have apologised to him many times after the incident”
“I don’t want to die in a race car. I was expressing my willingness to give absolutely everything in my power to achieve success. Success to me obviously isn’t having accidents or getting penalties but finishing races as high a position as possible.”
“I am living my childhood dream of racing in Formula 1 and I’ve put my whole life into achieving that dream so it is only natural for me to be giving absolutely everything I’ve got, to achieve success in racing and the day I no longer do that I will retire from racing immediately.”
Podiums “not a coincidence” – Perez
Sergio Perez says that it is “not a coincidence”, that Force India in recent years has made a habit of being the midfield team to pick up surprise podiums.
In Baku, the Mexican recovered from a pit stop on the first lap to finish third, the fifth time he has achieved that result since joining Force India in 2014. Perez told Autosport “Obviously, this result is a coincidence of so many things happening, but it’s not a coincidence that we are always there to take anything that is offered to us.”
“Our battle is not here, to be honest, it’s the midfield and finally we got plenty of points today with this podium, [and] we can close up the gap to the cars ahead, to the Renaults.”
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said the team got its strategy right in Baku, especially when Perez went for new supersofts rather than used ultrasofts for the final charge to the flag.
Fernley added “At the end of the first lap I was feeling rather despondent. I thought here we go again! But what I did like was that it was a very, very constructive process to bring Checo up through the field.”
Another clamp down on oil burning
Formula One’s governing body the FIA has introduced a further clamp down on oil burning after announcing a ban on teams replenishing oil systems in qualifying.
The debate about oil burning has been a contentious issue since the FIA began a clampdown, following a letter from Ferrari in December 2016. Before this new move from the FIA, Red Bull’s Christian Horner had said in February: “We’d like to see that [the rules] go further because it still doesn’t deal with qualifying. It contains the race but still there are windows of opportunity in qualifying which we’d like to see further closed down. Hopefully, that will have an effect in creating engine convergence.”
The intention of the latest clarification is to enable FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer and his team to properly monitor oil consumption during the session where teams have the most to gain by pushing the rules to the limits and boosting performance, especially on the critical laps in Q3.
The new rules from next weekend say teams cannot add oil tank to any part of the lubrication system during qualifying. While that raises the obvious suspicion that some teams may have been doing that in order to disguise higher consumption.
Sources suggest that it is more of a pre-emptive strike from the FIA in to stop that possibility happening. The new directive from the FIA’s head of single seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis says “The FIA to monitor oil consumption during the qualifying practice session in a precise and timely manner.”
“No oil may be added to the car nor may any auxiliary oil tank [AOT] be activated, i.e. there may be no oil transfer between an AOT and any part of the engine lubrication system.”
“Exceptions to the above may, however, be granted on specific occasions following a request from the team concerned, any such exception will be made at the sole discretion of the FIA technical delegate.”
Button joins Alonso for Le Mans debut
Jenson Button will join Fernando Alonso as his teammate at next months Le Mans 24 Hours, with the Spaniard saying he is pleased that his former McLaren teammate is joining the “adventure.”
The two former champions will be debutants in the field for the prestigious endurance race. Button this week agreed a deal with LPM1 newcomers SMP Racing, while Alonso had already signed up to a full season of the World Endurance Championship ‘superseason’ with Toyota alongside his F1 duties.
Alonso told Sky Sports “I knew a couple of months ago already that he was joining the team and now it’s official. Happy to have him on board.”
“Obviously a very strong line up for SMP and their car seems very fast, or the fastest right now, so it’s going to be good. More and more people on board the better the championship will be, more attention it will bring for everyone, and it’s good for motorsport.”
While Alonso wants the Triple Crown, Button who has already also won one leg of the crown the Monaco Grand Prix has not expressed an interest in the Indianapolis 500.