Vettel will run in Q1 to meet 107% rule, says Horner

RBR boss Christian Horner has confirmed that Sebastian Vettel will take part in Q1 in Austin, but it will be only a token appearance to ensure that the German fulfils the 107% rule.

Vettel is due to start from the pitlane thanks to taking a complete sixth power unit.

“I think it’s a silly rule, isn’t it?,” Horner told Sky TV. “To have to eliminate a car totally from qualifying, it doesn’t really make sense. People are here to come and see the guys qualify and do the best they can. It’s a crazy situation that we’ve got a four-time World Champion effectively not taking part tomorrow. We will take part in the first part of qualifying, but we’re going to be limiting mileage to an absolute minimum.

“The problem is that the rules dictate that wherever he qualifies, he’s in the pitlane. This power unit has now got to do three races. We know they’re fragile so we’ve got to save as many kilometres as we can. Theoretically he’s only go to do one or two laps.

“I think it’s right that he takes part in the event. It’s important that he registers a lap, he’s within 107%, there’s no debate as to whether he’ll be racing or not on Sunday.”

Horner denied that there had been any pressure from Bernie Ecclestone: “I haven’t had that conversation with Bernie. He hasn’t said, ‘You’ve got to send your cars out,’ or anything like that. We need to abide by the rules. It’s only right that Sebastian does go out and do a lap in qualy. People are coming here to see the drivers in action, it would be silly to have him in the pit wall.”

Vettel was last in FP2 as he missed track time and had no need to run in qualifying trim: “It’s been a busy day. We had a gearbox change between P1 and P2 with Sebastian, and then a rear wing change that took a long time during the session just because we’re trying different set-ups. We managed to get the data we wanted out of the session, now it’s a matter of crunching the numbers tonight and working out what’s the best thing to do for the race.

“He’s obviously only been focussed on long runs because there’s no point looking at the short runs.”

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Ericsson set for Sauber seat in 2015

Marcus Ericsson is set be a Sauber driver next year, according to sources close to the Swiss team.

It appears that the Swede has beaten both Giedo van der Garde and Esteban Gutierrez to the seat alongside Adrian Sutil – assuming that the German’s ongoing contract is fulfilled.

Ericsson has shown well in recent races after weight saving and brake and aero updates at Caterham made him much more comfortable with the car.

He has substantial sponsorship from Sweden, and the suggestion is that an early payment would help to get Sauber through the winter.

Speaking to this writer he said: “I’m not involved in these things but I know my management are working 100% on making me stay in F1. We’ve done this first year now and I’ve started to perform on a good level, and of course I want to stay and continue that. There are not many seats available and of course Sauber is one option, and it’s one of the teams we’re talking to.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “I guess I’ll get a better feel in the race…”

Lewis Hamilton was 0.003s faster than team mate Nico Rosberg in practice in Austin today, but it was not a perfect day for the championship leader.

Hamilton was forced to sit out the last part of FP2 after suffering a hydraulic leak, yet another sign of a reliability problems at Mercedes.

“They just said there was some fluid on the floor,” said Hamilton. “There was a leak of some sort, I don’t think it was anything too concerning. It doesn’t help when you lose a little bit of time on the long run, because you get a real good understanding of how much you can push, how much you have to save fuel, and those kinds of things.

“Nico had the whole session and hopefully in terms of the team we’ll learn in terms of the team and understanding the data and everything. For me I guess I’ll get a better feel in the race…”

Meanwhile Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe said: “It was a hydraulic issue, quite a small thing. We don’t know exactly what, but we made a precautionary stop. We had two or three things going on at the same time. Reliability is a really important factor in the championship overall, and it’s becoming particularly pointy at the moment with the two drivers heading towards Abu Dhabi, It’s a big challenge for us to make sure we give them sisx car finishes in the next three races.”

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Buyers interested in Caterham, says administrator

The administrators for Caterham Sports Ltd claim that they are talking to potential buyers for the F1 team.

Smith & Williamson have also taken control of 1MRT, the entity that actually owns the F1 team’s entry.

In a statement the company said: “We remain in conversation with a number of credible, interested parties regarding the sale of the historic Caterham F1 racing team.

“Our current strategy is to seek a buyer that will allow the team to compete in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi on 23 November 2014 and we are doing all we can to make that happen. However, if a deal cannot be finalised in time, then the strategy is to secure a buyer to allow the team to compete in the 2015 F1 championship.

“We are working with our specialist Corporate Finance team to manage the sale process and we have received several expressions of interest from parties with the financial strength to fund a F1 race team. These conversations are ongoing. We believe this approach will maximise the assets of the broader Caterham F1 team and so enable the best outcome for creditors and other stakeholders, including employees of 1MRT.”

One thing that has not been addressed is the fact that in theory entries for the 2015 World Championship have to be filed – and paid for – by November 1.

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FIA confirms change of qualifying format for 18 cars

The FIA has confirmed that the qualifying format will change in Austin to reflect the fact that there are only18 cars in the entry.

As predicted by this writer last weekend four cars will be eliminated in Q1, and a further four in Q2. However Sebastian Vettel has already declared that he won’t participate in qualifying as a change to a complete sixth power unit will mandate a pitlane start, so in effect three cars will be bumped in Q1 this time.

Meanwhile the stewards have formally confirmed that Marussia and Caterham have both breached the regulations relating to entry in the championship by failing to turn up for the US GP.

The stewards have taken into account the ‘current financial circumstances’ of the teams had applied no penalty. However the matter has been referred to FIA President Jean Todt.

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FIA breaks silence on Caterham and Marussia situation

The FIA has issued a statement in response to the failure of Caterham and Marussia to show up in Austin.

It says that the US GP stewards will bear the circumstances in mind when considering whether the teams have broken the rules.

Looking ahead, the governing body says that it will support efforts at controlling costs.

“The FIA has been informed of the financial difficulties of the Caterham F1 and Marussia F1 Teams and of the considerable uncertainty surrounding their participation in the final races of the 2014 championship.

“It is the responsibility of the FIA Stewards to determine whether or not a team has failed to fulfil its regulatory obligation to take part in all events on the calendar and to take whatever action they deem appropriate. However, we have every confidence that the Stewards are fully aware of the financial situation of the teams concerned and these matters are always assessed with extreme care and due regard for the circumstances involved.

“Looking beyond the end of the 2014 season, these failings once again acutely raise the question of the economic balance of the FIA Formula One Championship and justify the position, expressed many times by the FIA, in favour of any initiative that will help reduce costs in order to ensure the survival of the existing grid or attract potential new entrants.

“As such, the FIA, in close cooperation with FOM and the different stakeholders in F1, will continue to work towards maintaining the attraction of the championship and the equitable participation of the teams in it in the years to come.”

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Former Caterham F1 boss Ravetto gives his side of the story

Former Caterham F1 team principal Manfredi Ravetto has expressed his frustration at the way the problems of supplier Caterham Sports have led to the team missing the US GP.

After Caterham Sports went into administration the administrator Finbarr O’Connell took control of 1MRT, the actual race team and owner of the entry, and announced that the team would not go to Austin. Ravetto had earlier been asked to step down from his role.

Meanwhile Tony Fernandes and the Caterham Group continue to claim that the purchase of 1MRT by Engavest – the consortium advised by Colin Kolles – was never completed.

“I am quite surprised by the latest happenings around the team and I thought it was time to rectify a few things,” Ravetto told this writer today. “First of all I was asked to step back under the promise that it was in the higher interest of the team and the team’s survival.

“I was promised that the team would keep going racing and salaries were paid and so on. Now the team is not turning up in Austin and the employees are struggling to get their money, and I would like to understand where we stand.

“As long as the management group I was a member of was in charge it is absolute undisputed that three things were happening. The cars were running, the salaries were paid, and the creditors were under control.

“It’s a fact that there are 300 families who have a problem now and nobody seems to be interested in that. I can only repeat that our priority has always been to keep the cars running, to keep the company alive, and to keep the employees happy and paid. Now I am not a Caterham guy and I am not an Engavest guy, I am workforce, so I am the same as a mechanic, same as an engineer.”

Ravetto insisted that there were key questions to be addressed.

“It seems to be undisputed by all parties involved that the team still belongs to the previous ownership [Fernandes]. My first question is why did Caterham Group and Mr Fernandes release a press statement on October 3rd saying they had nothing to do with the F1 team, and the F1 team was sold?

“I’ve been given plenty of reassurance and evidence that the purchase price has been paid. My second question is even if it was not why was a new management installed in the team? There must have been a good reason for this to happen. Otherwise I would have been forced into thinking it was just an exercise in order to shift over liability to somebody else, which is something I don’t want to consider, given the high profile of the parties involved.

“My next question is are we absolutely sure that there was no option in doing whatever had to be done in a timing and a way which was not causing this huge damage?

“How come CSL’s problem interfere with 1MRT? It comes to my huge surprise that a situation that affects company A has a detrimental effect of a death sentence to company Z. I’m not saying from A to B, from A to Z. This sounds very uncommon to me, and this is always something that needs an explanation.”

Expanding on the role of Fernandes, Ravetto said: “I think he is changing his version too many times. One day he is saying the deal has not happened because Engavest did not pay. Previously he said the deal happened and I have nothing to do with the F1 team. One day he says the deal has not happened because Engavest did not pay the creditors. And one day the deal has not happened because of not having transferred the building.

“How can we run the team for four months if we didn’t pay creditors? I think this is one of the most amazing things I ever heard.

“I understand that Finbarr O’Connell is fully in charge as per his request. I must say I found it very strange that he has also asked and received control of 1MRT. But I’m happy as long as the team is surviving. I’m afraid I don’t see this happening, that’s the problem.”

Ravetto played down the obvious suggestion that the plan was always for Caterham to morph into FRR, or Forza Rossa, the Romanian-backed team that Kolles has also been advising.

“I can say that at no time was this intended to become the Forza Rossa operation. The project from day one was to keep Caterham alive, to develop it, to expand it, also to integrate a structure of businesses, maybe with the chance of selling technology to third parties, In other words to make a proper thing around the team called Caterham F1. This was the task from day one. And this is something to which I was sticking until the very end.

“Nobody can say it wasn’t our intention to pay creditors, otherwise we would not have lasted until the Russian GP, and we wouldn’t have been ready to carry on. Everything was ready to finish the season, and everything was ready to start building the 2015 car.

“I just want to see the whole truth emerging, and I just want respect for the job which has been done, which cannot be disputed, and also the people who have worked with us.”

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