Final step to title the hardest – Vettel
Sebastian Vettel has admitted that Ferrari final step to returning to championship success will be the hardest. Although the Italian team made a huge improvement last season and challenged Mercedes for the title, the team has not managed to win a drivers or constructors championship in a decade.
The German believes that going into this season they can carry the momentum into this season, but has admitted the team remain the underdogs after four successive titles from Mercedes. He told Autosport, “Obviously the regulations stay roughly the same. I think we have a good and healthy platform to build on at the beginning of the year so I hope we can continue.”
“What we have to do is take that final step. If you look back it’s always that final step that’s the hardest. There’s a lot of work going on already and for the last couple of months focusing on next year, trying to make the car faster, with more power into the power unit, and then we’ll see where we are.”
Before last season, Ferrari hadn’t managed to fight for a championship since 2012, and it was the first time that Vettel had been a genuine title contender since he took his fourth world title in 2013. Vettel says that every driver wants to be fighting from the beginning, and you don’t know if it will be enough to fight for the championship.
Adding “Usually it’s a no-brainer: if the car is quick and you are doing your job well then as the season progress it will lead you to good news or bad news. For the most of it, I think it’s been good news.”
Todt reopens global engine debate
FIA president Jean Todt has opened the idea of a ‘global engine’ which could be used across Formula One and other motorsport series.
In the late 2000s, the sports governing body asked engineering consultancy Ricardo to investigate the potential for a common rules package to create a base engine that could be adapted for use in as many as 11 major series around the world.
The report suggested that two baseline packages could be created, one for single seaters like F1 and IndyCar and another package for rallying, touring cars and prototype sports cars. However, the concept disappeared over the cost and practicality from the targeted championships and manufacturers.
Given the huge investment needed to produce engines for the current hybrid F1 regulations, Todt believes reviving the global rules concept could be attractive. He told Autosport, “Probably what we should say, which is not easy as well, is could we use this [F1] engine in other categories of motorsport?”
“At the moment each category of motorsport has its own single regulations, so probably we should try to see if we can have some synergies.” The Frenchman believes that WEC LMP1 class and F1 could use the same engines, as they both move towards longer engine life.
However, the last time this was tried it lead to the demise of the World Sportscar Championship ahead of the 1993 season.
Force India will allow Perez and Ocon to race
Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer says that both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon to be allowed to race each other again. The pair had been under orders not to fight each other when they collided twice in August’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Speaking to Autosport, Szafnauer said “The drivers have got a better understanding and have matured enough so that they know and we know how to behave. So next year it should be a lot better.” Perez and Ocon rowed in Montreal before they collided in Baku before two more clashes in Budapest and Spa.
The clash at Spa caused the team to bring in rules of engagement and team orders. Szafnauer admitted that was a difficult call to make, but it was ultimately the right call because it allowed the team to seal d fourth in the constructors’ championship for the second successive year.
“It’s funny because you get criticised if you do and criticised if you don’t. Some of the media were critical as they said ‘you should’ve got on top of it earlier’.”
“We were letting them race and when we did get on top of it they were saying ‘oh they can’t race anymore’.” Szafnauer added that they got the right balance as they sealed fourth in the constructors.
Mallya declared a “proclaimed offender”
A court in Delhi has declared that the owner of Force India Vijay Mallya is “proclaimed offender” for failing to appear to answer allegations of money laundering by flouting foreign currency laws.
The court ruling now allows the Indian government to take over his property and businesses. The businessman is currently facing extradition hearings related to his business dealings but denies wrongdoing and claims he is a victim of a media witch hunt.
The government says he borrowed hundreds of millions of pounds knowing he was unable to repay and wants him to stand trial on charges of money laundering.
New allegations are emerging from India’s Enforcement Directorate claims that he paid £148,000 for his Kingfisher brand to appear in Formula One during the 1990’s. The directorate claim that that money was paid without prior approval of the country’s federal bank.
Bottas needs a title challenge – Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas needs to challenge for the title this season and says the Finn will return stronger in his sophomore season with the reigning world champions.
Despite finishing third in the championship, taking four poles and three wins last season it was a mixed season for Bottas who finished nearly sixty points behind teammate Lewis Hamilton.
A dip in form after the summer, with Hamilton delivering five wins, saw Bottas fall out of title contention. However, Wolff believes that Bottas has what it takes to fight for the title, telling ESPN “That’s what he has to do [challenge for the title].”
“We have seen some highlights in Sochi and in Austria and then after the summer Lewis came back very strong and the step that Lewis made up, Valtteri went backwards.” Wolff says that his recovery at the end of the season shows his never give up attitude and is expecting him to come back stronger.
He says the Finn is well aware where his deficits and advantages are. Wolff added he does not believe Bottas will resort to playing similar psychological mind games in an attempt to get under Hamilton’s skin.
“That’s not at all Valtteri’s style. Valtteri wants to do it on the track in the best possible way and he has driving skills that have worked out for him at certain circuits where he was the one that set the benchmark. Valtteri will improve his weaknesses and continue to work on his strengths.”
Nurburgring enters talks about German GP
The Nurburgring is in talks with Formula One bosses about hosting the German Grand Prix from 2019. The circuit entered into a shared deal to host the race bi-annually with Hockenheim in 2007, however, has failed because of financial pressures to keep the race on the calendar since 2013.
Since a change of ownership in 2016, chief executive of the circuit Mirco Markford has been looking at plans for the circuit to fulfil its contract. Liberty Media has made it clear that while it wants new venues and countries, it also wants to protect the historic European and North American races.
This year’s German Grand Prix is due to take place at Hockenheim, however, there is not one scheduled again until 2020. Markfort meet with Chase Carey in Abu Dhabi about the possibility of holding the race and those talks have continued.
He told Motorsport.com, “We really would appreciate to have the Formula 1 back at the Nurburgring in 2019.”
“This will only be possible if we take meaningful economic surrounding conditions into consideration. We are able to confirm that there had been conversations with the owner of the Formula 1, Liberty Media.”
The Nurburgring will face competition from other circuits after commercial boss Sean Bratches has said forty venues have expressed an interest in holding races.