Williams to test Kubica & Di Resta
Williams is to test both Robert Kubica and reserve driver Paul di Resta in a 2014 car between the Japanese and United States Grand Prix’s to see which of them would be suitable for a race seat next season.
Williams has become the most wanted seat after the top three teams all announcing that they are sticking with the same lineups next season. This means that the British team has received enquiries about the possibilities of the second seat next season.
The shortlist is understood to feature four drivers, Felipe Massa, Kubica, reserve driver and Sky commentator Di Resta and the Mercedes backed Pascal Wehrlein. Williams is planning to run the Polish driver in their 2014 car which was used by Lance Stroll for circuit familiarisation during last season and at points this year.
Kubica’s chances of doing more tests for Renault ran out when the team signed Carlos Sainz to drive alongside Nico Hulkenberg next season. Now Williams is testing the Pole, with a more targeted programme as they believe that Kubica could be in a race seat next season.
Di Resta will also drive the car this month, as the team continues to evaluate his potential for a race seat next year. The Scotsman has been pushing for a race seat after standing in for Massa in Hungary.
Also Williams would want to retain Massa should he chose to continue racing, as he came out of retirement to replace Valtteri Bottas who moved to Mercedes. Pascal Wehrlein would not suit the team because one of its drivers to be over the age of 25 as part of its arrangement with title sponsor alcohol brand Martini.
However, there could be some re-negotiation on that issue. It has understood that while Williams are in no hurry to decide they would like a decision before the end of the year.
Ferrari optimistic Vettel’s gearbox can be reused
Ferrari is optimistic that Sebastian Vettel’s gearbox which may have been damaged following the Malaysian Grand Prix, can be reused to avoid a minimum grid penalty of five places at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Sky Sports in Italy say they understand the initial investigations have been positive and Ferrari will run the gearbox in Saturday’s final practice session at Suzuka in order to assess its performance before making a final call for qualifying.
The damage was caused by an odd collision on the cool down lap with Lance Stroll’s Williams. Providing he has no more retirements this season, his gearbox must complete the final five races if the Ferrari driver is to avoid a five-place grid drop.
Ferrari must weigh up whether they continue with the unit to avoid a Suzuka penalty or change it to a fresh one in order to minimise any risk of suffering a more costly race retirement.
Vettel is thirty-four points behind title rival Lewis Hamilton with five races remaining. Victories in Singapore and Malaysia, which looked favourable for Ferrari have gone to Mercedes and Red Bull respectively with engine problems hampering both their drivers at Sepang last weekend.
Vettel told Sky Sports Italy “It’s a shame both of us had compromised weekends. I don’t know if it was the same issue but for sure it’s not ideal if you retire one car on [Saturday] and one on [Sunday].”
“There’s something that we need to understand. So far we had a pretty good record this year for reliability, for sure you are always on the edge, so I’m not too worried but we need to get on top of the problems that we have.”
Renault defends Budkowski signing
Renault is not in Formula One “to make friends” as the row continues about the team potentially signing the FIA’s former technical chief Marcin Budkowski.
The French manufacturer has been heavily criticised after they got hold of Budkowski as he has privileged information about what other teams are doing.
Although Renault has not confirmed his signing, team boss Cyril Abiteboul made it clear that Renault needed to go on the offensive to grab the staff it needs if it wants to be world champion over the next few years.
Abiteboul told Sky Sports “We want to be one of the top teams by 2020. It is at one time far away, but given we know what needs to be done.”
“If you look at the one-second – 1.5-second gap between the midfield and the top teams, it is a big jump and that is why we need to be aggressive in what we do to be there by 2020.” He says there are ways you do things and the team does in terms of recruitment.
Despite the controversy, Abiteboul insists his team will not do anything that could breach the rules nor rival teams’ IP rights. “Renault has a very clear track record of being extremely fair and loyal,” added Abiteboul.
“So whatever we will do, we will make sure that it is done in a very loyal way and a very fair way to our competitors.”
Verstappen “really needed win”
Max Verstappen’s father and former F1 driver Jos, says that his son “really needed” his win in the Malaysian Grand Prix following his difficult season.
The Dutchman put in a dominant race in Sepang to round off his twentieth birthday with victory and his second podium of the season. Its been a season which has seen Verstappen suffer from reliability problems and a number of first incidents.
Asked by Sky Sports how important this win was for his son, Jos said “I think he needs it, he deserves it. He really needs it. I mean it was tough, this year for him was really tough.”
“He had a lot of things to learn of course and I think this is the result when you never give up, keep motivated, and keep concentrated, and that’s what he does.” Verstappen took advantage of Ferraris disastrous weekend to challenge Lewis Hamilton and pass on the fourth lap of the race.
That impressed Jos, who said “You could see in the first two laps, he could stay with Lewis [Hamilton], you could see that we had the grip. He did a nice move on him I think, a proper one. Of course, Lewis is fighting for the championship as well, we all know that.”
Jos says that his son’s Red Bull, looked stronger than the Mercedes, his lap times were consistently faster and he was consistent and controlling the pace. Adding the commanding performance proves to any doubters that he is ready to win world championships.
Red Bull has the best chassis on grid
Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has claimed that the team now has the best chassis on the grid. In Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen beat the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton on merit with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo third.
Marko feels that this was a milestone in the teams return towards being championship contenders after starting the season a distant third behind Mercedes and Ferrari. He told Autosport “The big satisfaction is to overtake Mercedes and pull away.”
“It shows that the works that we did since our poor start in Melbourne paid off, and the development goes in the right direction. Chassis-wise, for sure we are the best now.”
“We’re going in the right direction and getting faster and faster, the car is really good. If everything stays together then Max or Daniel can achieve a podium, and maybe one or the other can win.”
Marko says that the team would have won the race, even if Ferrari had not been compromised by engine problems that left Sebastian Vettel at the back of the grid and prevented Kimi Raikkonen from starting.
“Ferrari had problems, but our race speed was comparable, because in the end Sebastian was on super-soft tyres, and you saw that when he was catching Ricciardo he went too close and he ruined his front tyres, so that’s why he had to stop his attack,” Marko said.
However, he fears that this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix could be marred by further penalties for engine component changes.
Haas to be compensated for drain damage
Haas is hoping that they will be financially compensated for the half a million pounds worth of damage caused by a faulty drain system to Romain Grosjean’s car.
In practice, the Frenchman was sent into a scary spin causing him to make a heavy contact with the barriers. The incident prompted the FIA to re-weld the drain in question and conduct checks on the remaining installations around the circuit.
That left the team to repair the car following the extensive damage without using a ‘joker’ the team broke the curfew as the events were “entirely and clearly beyond the control of the driver and the competitor”. That allowed Haas to get the car out for FP3 on Saturday and the car completed the weekend.
In that evening’s drivers briefing which was published partly online, Lewis Hamilton asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting who is expected to foot the bill in a situation where neither team nor driver was at fault, pointing out that the American team is on the lower end of the F1 budget scale.
Though it is currently unclear who would pay any bill, Haas has made enquiries of its own.
When asked during his post-race media session if the team had raised the issue of compensation to the FIA, team boss Guenther Steiner replied: “Oh yeah absolutely, you have to. It was completely out of our hands.”
“I cannot say ‘OK we now let three-quarters of a million go because somebody forgot to weld something in’, it’s all good. We pay a fee to come here and it’s like, guys [come on].”
The total cost is not expected to be known for a while.