Ferrari ratchets up threats about future
Ferrari has ratcheted up the threats they made to quit Formula One after 2020 because of the direction which the sport is taking.
Speaking at the annual media lunch president Sergio Marchionne criticised the teams former technical boss Ross Brawn, who is now technical director of the sport, for coming up with new regulations which are against the “DNA of F1.”
The Italian manufacturer is against plans to simplify engine technology, including the introduction of some standardised parts from 2021. Marchionne told Sky Sports “We are not bluffing and I would not try to test the theory. If they continue on the path of wanting to turn F1 into NASCAR, with cars all the same, there could be a divorce.”
“If they decide to make us all the same we will go in three seconds, but that’s not what we want.” But Marchionne has made it clear that his priority is finding an agreement to keep the team in the sport.
Ferrari is the only team which have taken part in every championship since the formation in 1950, but Marchionne says that if the conditions are right they would seek to race in another series.
Despite his opposition to the engine proposals, he said he would give the sport’s new owners Liberty Media a “mark which is sufficient” for their first year in charge. However, says that Brawn’s vision for the future annoys him as it goes against the DNA of the sport.
Last month Liberty outlined its vision for the future, which was criticised by the sport’s three leading manufacturers, with Mercedes and Renault joining Ferrari in expressing concerns.
Raikkonen’s last chance – Marchionne
Ferrari’s president Sergio Marchionne has suggested that the team will replace Kimi Raikkonen in 2019 if the team cannot find the best way to unlock consistent form next season.
The former world champion is currently the oldest driver on the grid and returned to Ferrari in 2014, but over the last four seasons, he has not managed to take any wins. Raikkonen has also struggled to match Sebastian Vettel over the past three years.
Raikkonen was given a new one year deal by the team for 2018, but Marchionne has made it clear that its vital for him to find his old form again if he is to stand a chance at securing a deal for the following year.
Marchionne made it clear it was vital for Raikkonen to be more consistent, saying it sometimes feels as if the Finn was “taking a break”. Speaking on Monday, he said “My personal opinion is that if we find the right key, Raikkonen drives like a God When things go right, it’s a pleasure see him driving.”
“He has an incredible coldness. Otherwise, in other moments it seems like he takes a break. He needs more consistency in terms of performance, but it’s important to find the right key to make him driving like in Monaco also on other circuits.”
He added that 2018 was the last season to find that form. Marchionne added Ferrari needs to find a replacement for Raikkonen, it will take on a young driver such as F2 champion Charles Leclerc, who will race with Sauber in 2018.
Money the issue in engine debate – Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the “elephant in the room” when discussing the future of the sport beyond 2020 is money. Teams are currently renegotiating the future engine regulations as well as its commercial agreements.
Liberty is wanting to use the regulations to level out the playing field, but the manufacturers and larger teams are against levelling the field and creating simpler engines as they fear that they could lose out. While engine cost remains a contentious issue, the budget cap and distribution of money remains an issue.
He told ESPN, “Well that’s the elephant in the room. That’s the most important topic after 2020. It is clear that we need to find a structure that works for everybody. Some of the smaller teams struggle on the income side.”
Wolff says Mercedes isn’t against a budget cap as long as it is policed in the right way and there is a sensible introduction. But adds we will not be dropping the workforce by thirty percent over the winter or give up a performance advantage.
Adding “These discussions have just started in a friendly way, and again here we acknowledge that we might have different opinions. But at the end, for the sake of Formula One, we will find the right solutions.”
Mercedes have dominated the sport under the current set of regulations and has invested huge amounts of money in the power unit, but Wolff insists Mercedes will not resist change simply to try to protect its position.
“We are all up for it. We like the challenge, we understand the shortcomings of some of the current regulations — it needs a fight at the front and we embrace the fight. I think it’s important to acknowledge that the other side might have a different opinion on things.”
Stroll says he needs to work on qualifying
Lance Stroll says that he needs to work on his performance in qualifying for next season. The Canadian had some strong performances in his debut season and finished three points behind his experienced Williams teammate Felipe Massa.
However, Stroll struggled to get the best out of his car during qualifying and only out qualified Massa twice in head-to-head battles. The team’s chief technical officer Paddy Lowe says he believes Stroll’s performance in qualifying is disguising the progress he is making as a driver.
Stroll told Autosport “Qualifying is not my strongest point. I have had some tricky qualifying sessions but also some unlucky qualifying sessions like Suzuka, I had a red flag and got blocked so I don’t count that.”
“It hasn’t been as strong as my race pace because I’m still not where I want to be with the car and myself over one lap. I just feel like I’m still trying to understand the tyre, the car, and just get myself in the zone.” Stroll says there is no reward for qualifying but it’s a big part of the weekend.
Lowe has suggested that Stroll’s biggest difficulty is making that step up in pace immediately during qualifying and believes getting on top of the tyres will help him make gains in that area.
“In the race, I feel like I’m very good at that and then when I’m pushing for one lap and I’m trying to get the most out of myself and the car, I then find it’s a big limitation and it’s easy to go overboard and lose a load of lap time.”
Stroll added that he is pleased with the way he has managed to get performance out of the car.
McLaren rule out title sponsor in 2018
McLaren has ruled out having a title sponsor next season, despite team boss Zak Brown saying the team has attracted interest from a lot of potential new backers.
Brown’s predecessor Ron Dennis, has in the past suggested that the era when team have a single title sponsor was over. One of the American’s aims, when he replaced Dennis, was to sign a new title sponsor because the team has not had one since Vodafone’s exit at the end of 2013, he now agrees they could be a thing of the past.
He told Autosport “I don’t think we’re going to have a title sponsor per se. What I think we’re going to have are major partners. If you look at F1 no one really refers to the name of the team’s title partner.”
“So I don’t think there’s a lot of value. We’re McLaren, we’re not ABC McLaren. There’s major branding, but we don’t want to sell the title, we want to remain the name of the team – McLaren.”
Brown says that the team has been stirred, by both the change in the sport as a whole and the switch in engine supplier for 2018. He added they have also signed new sponsors, but they don’t know when they will be announced.
He added “We’ve got a lot of excitement. There’s a good buzz around F1, TV ratings are up, live attendance is up, new owners, strategic vision, so there’s momentum behind F1.”