FIA Drops ban on visor tear offs
The FIA have decided to drop there ban on Formula One drivers from removing the tear-off strips from their helmets during grands prix. The ban was due to come in this weekend but has divided drivers
McLaren driver Jenson Button describing the proposal as “silly”. However he could partly understand the decision given team-mate Fernando Alonso had suffered two failures in the past year after a tear-off strip had lodged in the brake duct of his car.
The debate continued into the drivers meeting last night with FIA race director Charlie Whiting that was conducted post-practice. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat describing the discussion as “kindergarten talk”.
The conversation they had were focused around where the r-offs should be disposed, given the difficulties drivers faced in attempting to place them inside the cockpit. After talks Whiting seceded to remove the ban saying drivers would be in danger putting them in the cockpit.
He told Autosport “I have decided, based on discussions with the drivers, they are likely to be put in more danger trying to dispose of tear-offs in the cockpit than they are from a tear-off on the track.
“With this in mind I felt the best thing to do was exercise common sense and ask the drivers to simply keep the amount of visors they use to an absolute minimum
EU Referendum – Mercedes and McLaren take neutral position
With Just under a month to go Mercedes and McLaren have confirmed they are taking a position of neutrality ahead of the United Kingdom referendum vote on EU membership.
Mercedes director Paddy Lowe told Sky Sports “One of our directors looked at the issue because some of our staff members asked which way they should vote.”
“He concluded it didn’t really make a lot of difference, either to the company or to Formula 1 in general in terms of how we run the business. So we’ve left it to our employees to vote how they wish personally.”
McLaren Racing Director Eric Bouilier said “We don’t believe there will be a significant impact on the Formula 1 business.”
“The team and the industry is mainly based in the UK but we have managed always to use some suppliers abroad and I don’t think it’s going to change much.”
Renault contract is a “formality” – Horner
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said the contract with Renault for 2017 is “a formality”. Earlier this year the team signed a one year deal to use the French manufactures engine branded as TAG Heuer.
In a letter earlier this month Renault confirmed its willingness to continue supplying Red Bull from next season via a letter to the FIA, as stipulated in the latest regulations pertaining to engine supply from 2017 onwards. All this comes months after a very public break down between Renault and Red Bull
Speaking to Autosport Horner said “The relationship between ourselves and Renault has grown, and it would be a formality for the relationship to be extended in the very near future. I think it works very well the way it is, so I don’t see any reason why we would want to change.”
Horner confirmed the engine will remain branded as TAG Heuer under any new deal saying “Renault has its identity through their team, and they are happy for TAG to have the identity on the power unit. It also works well for TAG, it works well for Red Bull. Everybody is happy.”
He confirmed the first thing that needs to be done is with Renault then would need to be signed off by TAG who they have a multi year deal with.
Horner added he was surprised by their strong performance in practice yesterday saying “The driveability of the engine is good, it is delivering what has been advertised, and with the development that is coming through, it’s really encouraging.”
Mercedes look for answers
Mercedes have spent much of the day trying to catch up with Red Bull following there surprising pace in practice yesterday. Daniel Ricciardo used upgraded engines to top the timesheets by over half a second from Lewis Hamilton with Nico Rosberg a further three tenths adrift.
Hamilton welcomed the prospect of a close fight with the Red Bull’s Rosberg says the speed had “surprised” the world champions. Rosberg added that the team needed “to do our homework well tonight and tomorrow. In the situation we are finding ourselves in, it’s great to have an extra day, it gives us time to dig through everything and find more performance.”
The answer to this maybe Red Bull have got the new ultrasoft tyres to work which have been introduced this weekend for the race. But Mercedes only chose one set for qualifying while Red Bull has ten for the whole weekend.
Rosberg contract to be agreed soon
Mercedes want to keep Nico Rosberg alongside Lewis Hamilton and an extension to his contract is likely to be agreed soon according to three times world champion and non-executive director Niki Lauda.
Lauda told Sky Sports yesterday “I’m sure we want to keep Nico, and Nico wants to stay. I don’t see any issues at all and this will be fixed very soon. We have to decide it in the next three weeks. This is my point of view, to let him know that we all stick together for the next couple of years.”
Rosberg is out of contract at the end of the season and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said negotiations were under way but there would be no announcement this weekend in Monaco the German’s home race.
There has been reports that Ferrari are interested in signing Rosberg to replace Kimi Raikkonen who is out of contract at the end of the season. Team boss Toto Wolff said he would not be surprised if Ferrari, currently Mercedes closest rivals, were interested but played down the likelihood of the 30-year-old leaving.
“He’s been part of the Mercedes family since the journey began in 2010, he’s the current championship leader, has won seven races in a row, nobody ever doubts in his capabilities.” Wolff said.
McLaren could drop Button
McLaren have indicated that they are likely to drop Jenson Button at the end of the season and replace him with Stoffel Vandoorne next season.
The 36 year old is out of contract at the end of the season a Vandoorne becoming a very hot driver without a drive. McLaren chairman Ron Dennis told the BBC that the 24-year-old Belgian was “an integral part of McLaren-Honda’s future”.
He added: “Any team that imagines they may be able to poach him is very much mistaken.” With Fernando Alonso tied to a contract until the end of next season the team has to decide between the two but Dennis said the team were “not yet ready to commit or communicate” on their 2017 line-up. “You may rest assured that Stoffel is not for sale.”
Vandoorne made his debut in Bahrain when Alonso was unable to drive on medical grounds and is under contract which means he can’t sign for another team until a specific date in the autumn.
Jenson Button has been linked to Williams replacing Felipe Massa unless they sell Valtteri Bottas one year deal to Ferrari. Mercedes are unlikely to replace Nico Rosberg and Ferrari is not making decision on Kimi Raikkonen until the summer break.
Priority a return to F1 – Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado says his priority remains returning to the Formula One grid and is hopeful of retaining the support of state oil company PDVSA to help make it possible.
“We will try again and try to be back in a good team, to give me the chance to be competitive” he told the news agency Reuters. “Plan A is Formula One. The Venezuelan lost his seat with Renault after the French manufacturer took over lotus at the end of the year
Maldonado divides his time between the UK, Italy and Venezuela as he is now the test driver for Pirelli. His Pirelli role and large sponsorship from PDVSA made him an attractive proposition for teams in need of a budget boost but he was also a race winner, despite his crash-happy reputation.
But political and financial instability in Venezuela makes his sponsorship less valuable and with the oversupply off oil prices and profits are falling. The country has the world’s highest inflation and frequent power cuts as well as worsening food shortages.
He added “Of course the oil price is still a bit low…and when the oil is down, the country is down. For sure it’s painful at the moment.”
Speaking a PDVSA he says the company is “supporting a lot of sport programmes in Venezuela. They still seem to maintain all the programmes…hopefully it will be no problem to have them back.”