Paddy Lowe: “It wasn’t the ideal race for us…”

Mercedes F1 technical chief Paddy Lowe admits that the team has been frustrated by this year’s reliability problems, which struck again in the Abu Dhabi GP and cost the team the chance to end the year with yet another one-two finish.

“It wasn’t the ideal race for us, as we would have liked a one-two,” he told this writer. “We came into the race with a target of a one-two, and we told Nico that, even if it had meant Lewis had won the championship anyway.

“There was a failure in the cooling system for the hybrid systems, and that was the thing that caused everything to fall apart around it. That was the core of the problem, and it cascaded into a number of other issues. Everything is linked together – the turbo isn’t working very well, and so on. Different things were coming in and out.

“I think if we stand back and analyse the season as a whole we weren’t as reliable as we should have been, but actually the unreliability fell quite equitably in the end. But overall, great to win the race itself. It takes us to 16 wins, and it was great for Lewis.”

Summarising the team’s phenomenal 2014 campaign he said: “I think it’s been the most fantastic season, and we just wanted to finish it in a nice way, and that’s what’s been done. Of course Nico won’t particularly feel like that, but he’s been an absolutely fantastic sport, very respectful to Lewis and the team. Great credit to him for that, I think it must be quite difficult for him. He won the inaugural pole position trophy, and that’s no mean feat.

“This last part of the season they have both driven exceptionally well. It’s the closing part, where you’re under pressure, that really counts, and it’s most difficult to keep it together. Both of them have shown themselves to be capable World Champions, and that gives promise to Nico for the future.

“You can’t take anything for granted over the winter in F1. We just have to do our best and see where we turn up next year.”

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Mattiacci ousted as changes continue at Ferrari

Ferrari has confirmed that team boss Marco Mattiacci is to be replaced by Maurizio Arravabene, the story having emerged over the weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Arravabene has worked for Ferrari’s main sponsor Marlboro since 1997, and is a familiar face in the paddock. Latter he has held the role of Vice President Consumer Channel Strategy and Event Marketing for Philip Morris International.

Since 2010 he has had a seat on the F1 Commission as the sole representative of the sponsors, and has thus been intimately involved with the rule making process.

Mattiacci fell out of favour with Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne, and his handling of the departure of Fernando Alonso – after the team was left with three World Champions under contract for next season – clearly did not help. Just eight months after being chosen by Luca di Montezemolo to run the F1 team, he is out of the company.

Marchionne said: “We decided to appoint Maurizio Arrivabene because, at this historic moment in time for the Scuderia and for Formula 1, we need a person with a thorough understanding not just of Ferrari but also of the governance mechanisms and requirements of the sport.

“Maurizio has a unique wealth of knowledge: he has been extremely close to the Scuderia for years and, as a member of the F1 Commission, is also keenly aware of the challenges we are facing. He has been a constant source of innovative ideas focused on revitalisation of Formula One. His managerial experience on a highly complex and closely regulated market is also of great importance, and will help him manage and motivate the team. I am delighted to have been able to secure his leadership for our racing activities.”

Regarding the departing boss he said: “We would also like to thank Marco Mattiacci for his service to Ferrari in the last 15 years and we wish him well in his future endeavours.”

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Rosberg gremlins leave bitter sweet feeling, says Wolff

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says it’s a relief that the World Championship has been resolved after the tensions involved in managing an intra-team battle – while emphasising his disappointment that technical gremlins once again cropped up in Nico Rosberg’s car.

“First of all it’s a relief now,” he said. “Although we knew that we’d won the driver’s championship before, we knew that it was going to be a challenge in staying neutral, and balancing out between the drivers. For us it was a particular challenge, so now that it’s over, it’s a relief.

“But then there is also a bitter sweet feeling left. Lewis Hamilton won 11 races, he deserved to be World Champion, he had a really incredible season. He had downs, and many ups, and at the end he’s a worthy World Champion.

“The bitter part is we worked so hard in such a diligent way to make the car reliable to enable the boys to fight it out on track, and that we had the problem with Nico’s car is something which gives it a bitter taste, and I feel that we let him down a little bit. In hindsight you can say from a rational point of view at that stage it was already difficult to make it after he had that start.

“Nico not finishing for us is a personal drama, because we expected to give them two cars which made it to the end. Lewis not finishing, being in the lead of the championship and being in the lead of the race, would have been an even bigger drama. Nevertheless it doesn’t make it any more acceptable to see Nico’s car break down.”

Regarding the Hamilton/Rosberg relationship he said: “It will re-set a little bit over the winter and at the beginning of the season, before it gets competitive. It is very clear that if your team mate, the one in the same car, is your biggest competitor, your biggest enemy, that it’s getting tense.

“I have no doubt that we will have similar situations and similar challenges next year again between the two. Anything else wouldn’t be normal. It’s just that we maintain it on the current levels of professionalism and respect.”

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Nico Rosberg: “Lewis has been the best driver on the grid…”

Nico Rosberg was typically gracious in defeat in Abu Dhabi, conceding that teanm mate Lewis Hamilton did a better overall job this year

He says he never gave up on his title hopes indespite dropping down the order after he hit ERS problems.

The German could still win the title by finishing fifth if Lewis Hamilton retired, and did everything he could to keep on target until he finally tumbled out of the points.

“I still believed in it for a long time, because there was still always the hope… there was always the possibility that also gets a problem or something, and then I only need to finish fifth or sixth. I believed until the end. The very last lap I was still pushing, because that’s what I do, I don’t give up, I just push all the way. That’s also why I wanted to finish the race.

“I’m very disappointed. All in all Lewis deserved to win the championship today, that’s clear.
Lewis won it because he won it, and whatever happened today didn’t make any difference to his championship win. So there’s no point to really focus on that at all.”

Rosberg said that whatever happened today, it had been a great year.

“All in all it’s been a great season for the team, I’m proud to be a part of that. Lewis was that little bit better driver this year, a tiny bit, in the races only. So he deserves the win. For me there’s some great things about this year, I’ve been quicker in qualifying over the two years, and that’s a very good base to work on. I need to work on my racing a tiny bit, and then I’m good to go.

“His level is massively high, his driving out there, he was the best on the grid this year. I was against him, the best on the grid. It was very close, a pity it didn’t work out. But I’m proud to be in this moment with the team, it’s a very special year, the car has been incredible. To be able to fight with for wins all the time and battle it out with Lewis has been great. Very intense was at times. It was an intense battle, but a great battle.

“That’s what I race for, the battles like that. Lewis has been the best driver on the grid this year, and to be up against him, and battling it out, the level was incredibly high. But I also have to find and deliver and be on a level playing field with him, and that’s been a great challenge for me. Most of the time it’s been enjoyable. Of course sometimes it’s not been enjoyable, but all-in-all, a great year.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “Obviously we both wanted it…”

Lewis Hamilton got his hands on his second World Championship after a superb victory in Abu Dhabi on a day when team mate and rival Nico Rosberg was struck by technical problems.

The Brit’s 11th win of 2014 finally secured him a title to add to the one he earned with McLaren back in 2008.

“This has been an incredible year,” said Hamilton. “I just cannot believe how amazing this has all been. Coming to this team last year, the decision to come here, when a lot of people said it was the wrong choice, the steps we took last year and then coming into this year, it was just unbelievable. And the fan support has been phenomenal. I never in a million years thought I’d have that kind of support.

“I said coming into this weekend that I wouldn’t change the season, the way it’s gone, for anything really because I’ve learnt a lot. If anything, I felt very, very strong with the way I came out of the good and the bad.”

Regarding his relationship with Rosberg he said: “I think it’s been so intense between Nico and myself all year long. There’s been good moments and bad moments. Without a doubt we’ve had a friendship or a relationship that we built a long, long, long time ago, so that will always be there. He was a very, very fierce competitor this year, he did an exceptional job. He’s going to be quick for a long time. I’ve got to pick up my qualifying pace for next year. It could have been either one of us.

“Obviously we both wanted it. But I think with our relationship, we’ll continue to try to lift the team up, we’ll work together as we have done all year long. Perhaps things naturally will ease up a little now. He was graceful enough to come up to me and see me after the race, which I really appreciated. It was really big of him to be able to do that. It’s very, very tough, I know what it’s like losing a championship so, for sure, we’ll keep working at it.”

Hamilton admitted that it had been a season of emotional highs and lows.

“Spa was a low moment. It was a very difficult scenario to be in and going back years ago, I wouldn’t have reacted the way I did this year. I would have chosen another way, which wouldn’t have been a positive, and I guess with age, and just maturing and having a different perspective on life, I think I handled it a different way, I really thought for the following days and really turned my focus to a different area.

“I came back to the next races with a slightly different approach and I won’t explain exactly what I did because I need to bring it to the next races next year but I did tweak some of my approach throughout the weekend which helped me get those wins. I’ve still got some improvements to make, qualifying was good this year but could be better. It would make it much easier if I could get qualifying sorted because the race pace is very much there.”

Lewis is currently signed up until the end of next season, but he is expected to sign an extended deal soon.

“This really is something incredibly special, what this team has put together, and I think we’ve got great people in their right positions. Me and Nico will continue to push the team forward, as will the boss of Mercedes, who have been so committed and building the best engine. These guys know just as much as I do, it’s been phenomenal this year. I think it’s really important the steps we take moving forwards to continue improving and I 100 percent believe the team will do that. I’m looking forward to battling with people for sure, but I do believe that we’ll be there fighting with people hopefully for some time.

“I definitely don’t feel that I’m looking for a new challenge. As I said when I joined this team, I wanted to be a part of something that was building and growing and knew success like the team hadn’t really had before. And so I feel like this is just the beginning. We still have another year to go, so there’s no particular rush, but this is my home. I feel very happy here. And obviously the team did a mega job, so I’m forever grateful for them.”

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RBR says Vettel and Ricciardo will start from back of grid

Red Bull says that its drivers will start the Abu Dhabi GP from the back of the grid after the FIA deemed that its front wing flaps were flexing illegally.

The team has to change the wings to make them legal, and normally that would be a change of spec, and a pitlane start. However, after the precedent of the Hamilton brake disc manufacturer change in Hockenheim if the FIA deems that the revised wing is of similar mass, inertia and function, the cars will be allowed to start from the grid.

Some rival teams told this writer that they were surprised that a change from an illegal to legal spec could be regarded as ‘similar.’

However, the team could yet start from the pitlane for strategic reasons – for example taking off wing to maximise straightline speed for overtaking.

RBR also said that it had been singled out by the FIA for a deflection test when in fact four teams were tested yesterday.

An RBR statement said: “Following the decision of the Stewards regarding the front wings on both our cars (Car 1 and Car 3), we are disappointed that we have been singled out for a front wing deflection test when it is clear that other teams are interpreting the rules in a similar fashion.

“The team accepts the decision of the Stewards and will start the race from the back of the grid.” 

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Ricciardo, Vettel face pitlane start as FIA investigates wing flexing

Red Bull Racing is under investigation by the stewards after FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer reported the cars of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel to the stewards for a front wing flap flexing offence.

Bauer reported that the front wing flaps were ‘designed to flex under aerodynamic load,’ which in other words equates to the cars gaining an advantage via illegal means.

Adrian Newey and team manager Jonathan Wheatley have been to see the stewards to state their case.

If the cars are deemed to be illegal they will be sent to the back of the grid. However clearly the wings will have to be modified so that will be a change of car specification, which means that both drivers will have to start the race from the pitlane.

However the FIA could also take further action if the offence is regarded as a case of blatant cheating.

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