Honda: No plans to extend supply beyond McLaren

Honda F1 boss Yasuhisa Arai was non-committal today when asked about plans to extend future power unit supply beyond McLaren.

McLaren will initially have exclusive use of the new V6 when the Japanese manufacturer rejoins the sport next season.

“For year 2015, McLaren is our only customer,” said Arai in China today. “I don’t think about the future, because we want to concentrate on next season.

“Of course we want to have good results next season and see the results from other manufacturers. If teams want to use our engine or power unit, we can deliver after year 2016, but right now there are no plans.”

Meanwhile Arai confirmed that Honda’s new UK F1 base, not far from Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, will be ready soon.

“We will open June this year. Now it’s still under construction but that factory is to do the engine maintenance for the races and rebuilding the Formula One engine and also to go to the race-track for the track side service.”

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Marco Mattiacci on leading Ferrari: “I come with a lot of humility…”

New Ferrari boss Marco Mattiacci says the opportunity to take over as head of the F1 team came out of the blue in a phone call from Luca di Montezemolo last week – some 72 hours before the news of his appointment was officially confirmed.

The erstwhile Ferrari North America boss was in New York when his boss rang.

“I received a call at 5.58am on Friday morning,” he said. “It was the chairman Montezemolo on the phone, and he told me this is my idea. And I thought that April Fools was already far away, it was 15 days later! Then after the second or third minute of discussion I understood that it was serious. I understood because there was already a ticket ready to go from New York, to Milan, after three hours. I arrived Saturday morning at Maranello, at the Fiorano track.”

Mattiacci said he spent some time talking with the departing Stefano Domenicali.

“Stefano is a great person, he’s a friend of mine. We spent Saturday, a few hours, Monday, we spent the entire day together. He is a person that I have the utmost respect [for], first as a human being, second as a professional. So it was natural for us to discuss the role.”

He insisted that running the F1 team had not been on his horizons: “I never had an agenda about what I want to be. I always worked extremely hard to be prepared for whatever chance was offered to me in any environment. That’s the beauty of life. I don’t think you can control or plan too much. I think you need to be prepared.”

Mattiacci said it was premature to say if there would any restructuring.

“It’s too early for me to make such statements. What I know is that I worked in Ferrari since 14 years, I’ve been the last four days in Maranello, in the Gestione Sportiva. We have an amazing group of talented people. I think we have a history, a pedigree that is unique, a pride that is impressive.

“To talk about restructuring is too early. Definitely we are here, I’m here. Mr Montezemolo is extremely focussed on giving any kind of support to the team, and if needed, to go on the market, but clearly to go in the market if you really believe there’s going to be another value, an impact, to this team. That’s at the moment what I know.”

He also made it clear that he feels his business background is beneficial.

“In the last 20 years I have assembled a lot of teams, I’ve benchmarked a lot of business structures, and as I told you this is a different perspective. Probably not in terms of a sporting team, but definitely assembling teams, working with people, managing people from different nationalities, with diversity, diversity in the industry, diversity in nationalities. I will try to bring, if I have [them], some best practices from there. But definitely this is a very specific culture, I’m aware of that. Time of reaction is completely different, you need to do things that happened yesterday, not in two months, like in corporate.

“I come with a lot humility, to understand and work very hard, this is what I can commit to the team, to the drivers, that are the best drivers in the world. I’m an extremely humble person that will listen and will fight 150% to be be a facilitator to utilise the best talent that is within Ferrari.”

Asked about his role in improving Ferrari’s form he said: “I’m not an engineer but we have 800 people that are working to make the car faster, and as I said the best talented engineers. For me it’s to get the highest motivation possible, and to define a certain project management. It’s not me that’s going to give one extra second to the car, it’s the engineers who work for us.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “It’s a lot harder here for some reason…”

Lewis Hamilton may have been fastest on Friday in China, but the Briton was clearly far from satisfied with the set-up of his Mercedes.

At one point he told the team “there’s something wrong with this car.” He’d already had suspension issues in the morning session, which saw him run only nine laps.

“It’s not been the easiest of days, but we’ve got this evening to do some work and try and figure out where we are,” he said. “The car can always be better.

“It doesn’t feel spectacular, it’s a lot harder here for some reason than it has been in other places.”

Hamilton admitted that he was frustrated to have run so few laps in the morning session.

“We don’t have many laps as it is, so every lap counts. Usually in P1 you make a set-up change, and go out and test it again when you get fresh tyres, then you do a bit of a longer run on that set. We lost a bit of time, but it’s OK. It’s not the first time.

“You need more laps, more tyres, more opportunities to change the car, so tonight we’ve got to gauge where the track is going to go tomorrow, and hope that we get the balance right. If it rains tomorrow we won’t even know if we’ve made the right change, then you get into the race and find out if you’ve got it right or not.”

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Nico Rosberg: “It was a big thrill during the race…”

Nico Rosberg learned valuable lessons from the Bahrain GP, where he fought closely with team mate Lewis Hamilton – but ultimately lost out in their wheel-to-wheel fight.

“I’ve reviewed Bahrain, and just tried to learn from it, picked out the good things from it, what can I do better,” said Rosberg in China today. “The key lesson from Bahrain – for sure I learned about battling, definitely a lot about that, because it’s not so common, to have many corner battles and things like that. That was very good experience, I definitely picked up many things there.”

Asked if he expected the rest of the season to see similar battles, he said: “If I had a choice I would say preferably not, I would prefer just going into the distance in the front. But it’s more likely that it’s going to be continue to be a close fought battle, which is also OK. It was a big thrill during the race, not after the race, but during the race it was, and really enjoyable. That’s what racing is about.”

Rosberg said he had no problems with Lewis Hamilton’s driving other than the one time he mentioned it on the radio.

“That was the only example where I came on the radio which I thought was above the limits, all the other examples were really tough racing, but with the necessary respect.

“[It was] the rate at which he was pushing me out, because the if the rate is too fast I will struggle to avoid the accident. If you’re on the inside you’re the boss, it’s your corner, as long as you’re in front. As soon as the other guy gets in front – and it was centimetres from me being in front in Turn 4 sometimes – but I just didn’t manage to get those 5-10cms in front, it was just even, and as long as you’re even it’s still the inside that has the say. So it’s the rate, and I found the rate above the limit, which is why I said it on the radio.”

Rosberg said he didn’t feel he had to be more aggressive in their next battle.

“I attacked quite a lot and went for it, even when I was not even close to being in a position, I just dived down the inside and give a go. I thought my attacking mode was pretty much there, anything more on more than one occasion meant that we don’t finish the race! Of course it was something I’ll keep adapting and keep reviewing, if there’s more battles like that.”

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Domenicali a “great man,” says Alonso

Fernando Alonso appeared to be distinctly underwhelmed with this week’s management change at Ferrari when speaking about it for the first time.

Alonso said he had not yet spoken to Marco Mattiacci, the erstwhile Ferrari North America boss who has replaced Stefano Domenicali. Surprisingly he seemed not to know whether or not his new boss would be present this weekend, despite it being part of the team’s PR announcement.

“No, I haven’t had the chance.” he said when asked if they had spoken. “I don’t know if he’s coming here, I guess so, so it would be a good time to welcome him. I don’t really have much to say. I drive the car. He will be good enough to recognise what are the weak areas of the team, what are the strong areas of the team and hopefully improve them. I think that as drivers, we will try to drive as fast as we can, Kimi and I, and try to help him in whatever field our help is required.

“I think we need to give him time and try to see how he settles down. It’s too early to say if it will be a very good thing or very bad. I think we need to make sure he has all the facilities ready, all the technical stuff ready, all the team behind him, try to help him settle down as fast as possible. And, yes, try to put him in a condition to feel comfortable from day one. We are really hoping it will be a successful managing of the team and everyone is looking forward.”

Regarding Domenicali’s decision to leave the team, he said: “I think we need to assess what Stefano decided. He was probably not any more in the mood to continue and with the feeling of taking the weight on his shoulders. He made a very responsible move. It’s not easy, when you have a very privileged position in one Formula One team to be able to step back and to say ‘maybe it’s better to move’. But he did it, just for Ferrari’s interest and improvement so that’s something that we cannot forget and now we have to respect that decision.

“From that point, for sure, it’s not that in this race we will improve one second, because I don’t think Stefano was doing the front wing or the rear wing or whatever by his hands, so probably we need to wait a little bit of time and see what we can improve and try to help all the team with the new people coming to make us a little bit stronger and try to get back some of the success from the past.”
Alonso made it clear that he regards Domenicali as a friend.

“I think that Stefano was a great man, first of all. I’m a close friend of his, not just on the circuit. We ski together every January 1st in Italy in the mountains. We still have a close relationship. We’ve been talking all the week long. I think that will continue, because we have known each for many years and we have worked very closely for this couple of years, so that’s important, to separate work from friendship.

“Then, as a team principal, I think he made good choices, good things. Obviously we missed opportunities in 2010, in 2012. They missed opportunities in 2008 with Felipe. If not, he could probably have three championships in his pocket. I think he brought in Pat Fry, he brought James Allison, Raikkonen, so I think all the things that people ask from him he was giving to them, probably, as I said, the results in the sports are important and the pressure at Ferrari is also quite big, so he made his decision which we respect and we will try to move forward in different directions but try to move forward. I’m happy with the time that we passed together.”

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Red Bull accepts verdict after losing appeal

The FIA Court of Appeal has upheld the original decision of the stewards of the Australian GP, which means that Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo have now definitively lost their second place.

The court, which sat on Monday, rejected the arguments from RBR about the unreliability of the Gill fuel flow sensor in the RB10.

The FIA noted: “On 16 March 2014 the panel of the stewards decided to exclude car N°3 (driver Daniel Ricciardo) from the results of the race as it was found to be not in compliance with the Technical Regulations (the Technical Delegate reported to the Stewards that car N°3 exceeded the required fuel mass flow of 100kg/h).

“The Court, after having heard the parties and examined their submissions, decided to uphold the Decision N°56 of the Stewards by which they decided to exclude Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s car N°3 from the results of the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.”

The team quickly responded by saying that it accepted the decision, and now wanted to move on.

A statement read: “Infiniti Red Bull Racing accepts the ruling of the International Court of Appeal today. We are of course disappointed by the outcome and would not have appealed if we didn’t think we had a very strong case. We always believed we adhered to the technical regulations throughout the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.

“We are sorry for Daniel (Ricciardo) that he will not be awarded the 18 points from the event, which we think he deserved. We will continue to work very hard to amass as many points as possible for the team, Daniel and Sebastian (Vettel) throughout the season. We will now move on from this and concentrate on this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.”

The decision validates the FIA sensor as the approved method of measuring fuel flow. Had it gone against the governing body it would have set a precedent that could have called into question other parts of the rule book.

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More questions than answers as Haas explains his F1 plans

Gene Haas has spoken at length about his F1 plans for the first time since the FIA granted him an entry.

Haas was accompanied at a press conference by Guenther Steiner, who will be team principal of the Haas Formula organisation.

Haas explained that the driving force behind the team was to promote his machine tool business worldwide, with a view to doubling sales. However he also said that the plan is for the team to become a “profitable enterprise” in five years.

Intriguingly the conference created as many questions as it answered, with Haas admitting that he doesn’t yet know if the team will make its debut in 2015 or 2016. He said a final decision would be made in four weeks.

“I would like to do 2015, simply because the first year is going to be a difficult year no matter what happens,” said Haas. “It’s a very big challenge and part of that learning curve is just simply getting to the track and sorting out the logistics of going from race to race, and the sooner we learn that, the sooner we’ll be done with that.

“It’s one of those things that we’re going to find out in the next few weeks, and hopefully in the next four weeks we should have an idea which year we’re going to pursue.”

Later he said: “2015 is too close, 2016 is too far.”

What he did make clear was that as expected he will rely heavily on a technical partner. However, he insisted that there was still a choice to be made between Ferrari and Mercedes, despite the Italian team being the clear favourite since news of the Haas entry bid first emerged. Intriguingly one source told this blog that Toto Wolff has already declined a request for technical support from Haas.

“It’s going to take us a while to learn, and we’re going to lean heavily on our technical partner to help us,” he said.

Rule changes that relax the restrictions on sharing of technology mean that from 2015 Haas could buy virtually everything it needs from an existing team – and in essence would only need to own the IP of its chassis and bodywork. Haas even used the phrase “customer car” at one point.

He also admitted that there was a good chance that Dallara would be in the mix as the supplier of the chassis, a job it did for HRT in 2010.

He also confirmed that a “campus” in Kannapolis would be the main base for the F1 team, alongside the NASCAR operation, but there would also be a facility in Europe.

“Ideally the main office will be here in Kannapolis. There may be a smaller office in Italy or Germany for assembly and disassembly of cars. It will depend upon who our technology partner ultimately is. That would be the logistics we would use. Nothing is cast in stone yet, we’re going to be flexible at it, we’re going to do what it takes, and we’re going to be efficient at it.”

He said that his Windshear wind tunnel was one of his biggest assets, but admitted it would have to be converted to run scale models given FIA restrictions on full size running.

Regarding drivers he said: “Ideally what we would like is to have an experienced F1 driver, probably someone who is familiar with the current engine package rules. Then going forward we would certainly like to have a young American driver, that would be the ideal situation. At the moment we haven’t really narrowed it down. We’ve had quite a few people talk to us.”

On the subject pf potential designers, Steiner said: “We’re in contact with people, but also we just got the license last week, and until you’ve got the license you can’t emply anybody and nobody would come and work for you if they don’t know if you’ve got a license in the future.

“The real works starts now, we need to get the people, we need to define if we start in ’15 or ’16, and we need to pick our partner.”

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