Mexico City set to return to F1 calendar

Bernie Ecclestone has signed what is believed to be a five-year deal to host a GP at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit starting from next season, with an option for five further years.

Ecclestone today confirmed to Forbes magazine that “we have got Mexico past the post.” The deal been agreed with promoter CIE, with the support of the federal and Mexico City governments, according to local publication Cancha.

As reported here at the time Charlie Whiting visited the track last September, accompanied by Austin F1 founder Tavo Hellmund, who switched his focus to Mexico after being ousted from the Texas project. His late father Gustavo was a race promoter at the venue.

They were joined on that occasion by FIA Vice President and regular F1 race steward Jose Abed, who was also head of the Mexican GP organising committee in past years, and by a representative of circuit designers Tilke.

The track will need a lot of work before it is ready to host an F1 race, including a new pit and paddock complex, while several corners have to be realigned.

A Mexican GP appeared on a provisional version of the 2014 calendar, with a November 9 date. It’s reported that an end of year date is again likely, effectively twinning the race with Austin. There has been talk of the race running in June, alongside Canada, although it would be impossible for the work to be completed by then.

Mexico hosted a round of the World Championship in 1963-70, and again from 1986-92.

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Wing damage cost Hamilton second place, says Wolff

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has praised Lewis Hamilton’s drive to third place in Germany after wing damage had compromised his pace.

The Briton chased down Valtteri Bottas in the closing laps, using a three-stop schedule to make better use of supersoft tyres, while the Finn stopped only twice.

“For me it feels like a one-two,” said Wolff. “Because he was coming from P20, and recovering to where he did, considering there were some difficult early laps – it wasn’t like making five, or six, or seven positions in lap one, he was really working hard to get back to the front.

“How close was it? I think the misunderstanding with Jenson cost him quite some lap time. We were quite down on downforce on the front wing, and then at the end with the strategy going back to the option tyre, we knew the window was very narrow where the pace in that tyre was really good. Valtteri was just cold blooded at the end, and defended well.”

Wolff believes that without the damage Hamilton would have had the pace with which to challenge Bottas.

“I think the car could have had much more performance with the wing not damaged. I can’t really give you [a lap time loss], but he lost many, many points of downforce from the front wing.”

Asked by this writer if the team had considered changing the damaged nose, which would have cost around 12s, he said: “We had precise data on what the nose was looking like and how the nose was performing. And of course we were very much aware that there wasn’t structural damage on the front wing, just the front wing end plate, some of the fins. We decided that the front wing was not deteriorating any further, so we decided to keep it on.”


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Bernie Ecclestone: No doubts over Russian GP after MH17 tragedy

Bernie Ecclestone says he has no concerns about the Russian GP in the light of the MH17 tragedy.

While Ecclestone and the FIA have always insisted that motor sport is not affected by politics, it seems inevitable that in the coming weeks the international spotlight will fall upon the Sochi race, and indeed any other high profile events scheduled to take place in Russia.

The Grand Prix is a potentially a particularly sensitive case, as it is closely associated with Vladmir Putin. It’s easy to speculate that some F1 sponsors – such as Malaysia’s Petronas – might have concerns about being seen to support the race, but Ecclestone does not anticipate any issues.

“I don’t see any problems with that,” he said when asked by this writer. “Were they [Russia] in the World Cup or not? You would have thought people would have tried to stop it, wouldn’t you? Like I’ve said, we don’t get involved in politics. We have a contract with them, which we know they will respect. And we will do the same.”

Asked if Putin’s close involvement with Sochi would draw attention he said: “Not as far as I’m concerned, personally. We shouldn’t speculate as to what could happen. We will honour our contract. Mr Putin personally has been very supportive and very helpful, and we will do the same.”


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Lewis Hamilton: “It was very hard to get through the pack safely…”

Lewis Hamilton did a superb job to salvage third in Hockenheim after starting only 20th, but while he put on a brave face afterwards there was no hiding his disappointment at losing more ground in the title battle.

Hamilton dropped from 15th on the grid after receiving a five-place penalty for a gearbox change. He also changed from Brembo to Carbon Industrie discs, although that did not lead to a pitlane start for a change to the car under parc ferme, as had been feared.

His chances were hampered by damage to his front wing after a clash with Jenson Button, and the team adjusted his strategy from three stops to two in attempt to find the pace with which to challenge Valtteri Bottas for second.

“I had great fun,” he said. “I did as good as I could today. It was very hard to get through the pack safely. I had a little bit of a collision with Jenson. I honestly thought he was opening the door to let me past, he’s been a bit like that in the past race for example, so my bad on judgement there. It’s very hard to overtake at the end, they were so fast on the straights, but I’m very happy I got some points today.”

Hamilton clearly lost downforce, although he could not quantify how much the wing damage cost him.

“I couldn’t tell you. The car was a little bit different but nonetheless to still get some points today, I’m grateful and very happy with the car today that Mercedes provided us with and congratulations to Nico. It’s fantastic for him on his home soil and also for Mercedes-Benz. So I’m glad I could add some points today.”

Asked if his glass was half full or half empty, he said: “Well, I don’t really know how to answer that really. I came from last, so to get on the podium is quite an achievement, so perhaps half full.”


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FIA decides that Hamilton won’t have to start from pitlane

Lewis Hamilton won’t be forced to start from the pitlane after the FIA accepted that his change of brake disc brand from Brembo to Carbon Industrie does not represent a change of car specification under parc ferme conditions.

Article 34.2 of the 2014 Sporting Regulations states: “It must be clear that any replacement part a team wishes to fit is similar in mass, inertia and function to the original. Any parts removed will be retained by the FIA.”

FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer has apparently accepted that the Carbon Industrie discs are a suitable replacement for the Brembos.

However Hamilton has changed his gearbox after the accident and a five place penalty drops him from 15th to 20th.

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Hamilton heading for pitlane start despite Mercedes safety claims

Lewis Hamilton is likely to start the German GP from the pitlane as Mercedes plans to switch him from Brembo to Carbon Industrie discs for the race.

That would be a change of car specification under parc ferme conditions, and a loss of grid position is the automatic result.

An optimistic Toto Wolff says that Mercedes hopes that the FIA will regard the change of supplier as a safety issue, but rivals insist that there is no chance of any leniency, and that it’s a straightforward case of a change of specification.

It’s worth remembering that when RBR had a tyre issue at Spa the team was not allowed to change cambers overnight on safety grounds.

“I don’t think we will be running the same brake material tomorrow because there is no way you can analyse what happened and how to prevent it in the future within 12 hours,” said Wolff. “So the latest information is that we will switch the brake material.”

Regarding the penalty, he said: “I’m not sure that this is totally clarified. We have had a brake failure, which means that we are obliged to make sure that the car is running safe tomorrow. What that could mean is switching the brake supplier. Whether that has to result in starting from the pitlane, we are discussing that with the FIA. I would even go further, obviously many teams are running that brake material, so that safety discussion probably needs to be extended.”

However other teams using Brembo told this writer they do not believe that they face any issues here, although there have been disc failures this year. Teams using Brembo include Ferrari, RBR, Sauber. Force India, Toro Rosso and Marussia.

Regarding Hamilton’s preference for Brembo he said: “Brembo had a failure earlier in the year, and they have upgraded the discs to what supposedly is the safest disc. They have put a lot of research into the carbon disc, so there was no gamble whatsoever, it was just a matter of what suits your driving style more. Both of them have been trying both brake materials almost every weekend.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “Obviously Nico’s got another gift…”

Lewis Hamilton will start the German GP from a lowly 15th after he suffered a front right brake disc failure in Q1 and spun heavily into the tyre wall.

Hamilton did not take part in Q2 and was thus officially 16th, but he gained a place from an Esteban Gutierrez grid penalty.

Out of choice Hamilton uses Brembo discs while Nico Rosberg uses Carbon Industrie – it’s not uncommon for drivers to swap around as they search for better ‘feel’ – so the German does not have an issue. The broken disc was new today and the team has no explanation for the failure, although the likelihood is that it was a one-off manufacturing fault.

Hamilton could in theory switch brands for the race – but it would be a change of car spec, and he would have to start from the pit lane.

“It happens so quickly,” said Hamilton. “And the thing is when you’re driving you have to have 110% confidence in the car, and you never, ever enter a corner thinking something’s going to happen. So you hit it [the brake pedal] and it’s a real shock. We’ll figure something out. There’s still a decent amount of races to go. Obviously Nico’s got another gift but we’ll do what we can.

“I can’t believe it, but obviously things like this happen, things are for whatever reason sent to try us. The guys worked hard over the evening, really late last night. We’ve done such a great job with the set-up, it felt fantastic out there, and I didn’t even get to do five laps. It’s nothing really to do with the guys. They’re supposed to have gone through lots of tests with the brakes, which they did. Just a bit unfortunate.”

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