Toro Rosso expected to confirm Kvyat’s return
Toro Rosso is expected to announce that Daniil Kvyat will return to the team at his home Grand Prix in Sochi this weekend. The Russian has dropped from the team ahead of last years United State Grand Prix.
The Russian started his career at the team in 2014 before moving to Red Bull the following season. However, he failed to match his teammate Daniel Ricciardo and was dropped in favour of Max Verstappen and struggled for form in his second stint at the Faenza-based team.
The Red Bull-owned team is yet to announce any drivers for next season after Pierre Gasly is to move up to replace Daniel Ricciardo who is going to Renault.
Kvyat was picked up by Ferrari in a developmental role at the start of the season but will be back for a third stint with Toro Rosso next season, with confirmation due later in the weekend of his home race.
If he does return to the team he will be the second Red Bull driver to come back to a Red Bull seat, following Brendon Hartley return to the team last season.
Hartley is likely to be retained as next in line for the seat Dan Ticktum, will not have enough points to qualify for an FIA Superlicence. Even if Ticktum beats Mick Schumacher to the F3 title.
Former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi was also linked with a seat, but he has now confirmed he will be staying in Formula E with Nissan.
Not one hand on the title – Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is insisting that he doesn’t feel as if he has one hand on a fifth world title, describing his championship battle with Sebastian Vettel the “most challenging” he has faced.
The Mercedes driver leads Vettel by forty points ahead of this weekend Russian Grand Prix, with six races to go Hamilton remains the favourite for this year’s title. However, is dismissing the suggestions that the job is half done.
He told Sky Sports, “I don’t think you ever have one hand on it – you either have both hands on it or you don’t. There is still a long way to go. A lot of points available.”
Hamilton’s lead is believed to be due to him being able to maximise results rather than make the errors that Vettel has made which have been costly. But he would not be drawn on whether he felt he had pressurised Vettel into those errors, but did elaborate on the wellbeing which has driven him to the top of the standings this year. “I’m happier, healthier and stronger than ever,” he explained.
“Just as critically, Hamilton has embraced the challenge posed by a rejuvenated Ferrari team and a car regarded as slightly superior to the Mercedes. It has been the most challenging year fighting against another four-time world champion. The stakes are as high as they have ever been.”
This weekend has the potential to pivot the title race, either way, a victory for Hamilton would edge him nearer to the title and for Vettel if the Mercedes ran into difficulties it could bring him back into the fight.
Vettel said “I am aiming to win here and then we will go to the next race. “The approach is exactly the same,” concurred Hamilton.
But in their quest to win one race at a time, something will have to give this weekend.
Force India sale heads to court
The Russian chemical company Uralkali is to sue FRP Advisory over the sale of the team to a consortium of investors led by the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll. But Dmitry Mazepin has launched action over the process.
In a statement given to Motorsport.com, Uralkali cites “inadequate responses” from the administrators, Geoff Rowley and Jason Baker of FRP Advisory LLP, over why its bid was unsuccessful. It claims that the administrator has confirmed that the winning bid was “significantly inferior” to its own and Uralkali believes “the highest bid should have been determined as the winner”.
Uralkali states that the administration process contained “misrepresentations and lack of transparency” and “failed to achieve the maximisation of sale proceeds for the benefit of creditors, shareholders and other stakeholders”.
It says it made what it calls “an extremely generous offer to acquire the company`s business, assets and goodwill”, tabling a cash consideration of between £101.5million and £122million.
The cash offer would have been enough to pay off the debts owed by the team, as well as paid for a five-year development plan and by out the shares held by the team’s other shareholders.
The administrators entered an exclusivity agreement with the consortium led by Stroll, which eventually bought the assets and re-entered the team as Racing Point Force India.
Uralkali says that it has no option but to launch the legal action because it is set to lose millions in the bid.
Responding to the claims, FRP says it was not aware the claim had been made and defended its own actions. A statement said “No such claim has been received by us or, as far as we are aware, by the Court. If a claim is issued it will be defended vigorously.”
“We have fulfilled our statutory duties as administrators throughout this process and ultimately achieved a very successful outcome for all stakeholders.
Ocon admits Williams only hope
Esteban Ocon has admitted that Williams is now his only hope of staying on the grid next season. The Mercedes backed driver is facing a battle to retain his seat in F1, after his planned move to Renault fell through after they signed Daniel Ricciardo.
Although Williams is facing competitive struggles, Ocon says discussions are ongoing about what he will do for next year, as he dismissed suggestions a move to the Grove-based outfit would be a step down for him.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, the Frenchman said “There are talks with Williams obviously. The talks are there, but I cannot say it will be a downgrade. Williams is a great team, they have been world champion in the past and they have been fighting with us hard last year.
“They have tough times, but all teams have tough times” Pushed on Williams being his only option to remain in F1, he said: “I think so.”
If a deal can’t be reached for 2019 with Williams, Ocon says he will miss out the year entirely as he has ruled out Formula E with the works Mercedes Venturi team and IndyCar. Asked about IndyCar, he said: “I am not interested. I am interested in F1, and that is the only thing I want to do. That is my only focus.
“I like racing, I like cars and I think it is a great series. But the only thing I look at is F1, it is my only target and my only target is to be world champion one day, and there is nothing else that counts really.”
Ocon also believes that him racing elsewhere would not benefit him and make him better prepared for an F1 come back.
Tripleheaders only for ‘exceptional circumstances’
F1’s sporting director Steve Nielson says that the sport will only consider having triple headers again for flyaway races. This season the French, Austrian and British Grands Prix all ran on consecutive weekends, which proved a tiring affair for everyone involved.
F1 has announced it would try to avoid a tripleheader in the future, however, Neilson says that it remains an option which will remain of the table in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Asked about the lessons learnt, he told Motorsport.com “I think what it taught us is that if we were to do a triple-header again – and it’s not something we’d undertake lightly – it would certainly be better to do it at flyaway events rather than European ones.”
“In Europe, we have large hospitality units. They are unique, but constructing and deconstructing them is enormously time-consuming and hugely expensive in terms of manpower etc.”
For the races in Europe, with the exception of Baku and Sochi, the teams are responsible for their own freight, while for the other races freight is handled by DHL on behalf of FOM. This means that it is less of a logistical challenge.
Neilson added “If you had to choose a pattern F1 is best set up for, it’s ironically the long distance flyways that are the easiest in terms of logistics.’
Grosjean “on thin ice” with penalty points
Haas’s team principal Gunther Steiner has admitted that Romain Grosjean is “on thin ice” with the FIA, after moving to within three penalty points of a race ban.
The Frenchman moved from six to nine points at the last race in Singapore as part of a penalty for ignoring blue flags in front of race leader Lewis Hamilton.
Drivers are given a race ban if the reach twelve month period and Grosjean isn’t due to drop points until after Mexico. Meaning he will be banned if he gets three more points in the next four races. Steiner told Sky Sports, “He should be very careful – but I think he knows that. We are getting close and are on thin ice at the moment I would say with that one – and for a few races as well.”
Grosjean was the last driver to be banned in 2012, but no driver has yet been banned under the current points-based system. The Frenchman is now once again walking a disciplinary tightrope. He said “It’s Formula 1 and we still need to deliver good performance. I’ll make sure I don’t do anything silly, but I will still be pushing and racing and doing my job.”
“When you look back at the points I got, some you can really explain, some others are more questionable.”
Formula One Vault will bring you LIVE and full coverage of the Russian Grand Prix from 08:45 UKT on Friday with first practice on our LIVE Twitter account @F1VaultLive. We will bring you race coverage from 11:40 on Sunday with the race starting at 12:10 UK time