Category Archives: F1 News

Dennis eyes Sauber as acceptable Honda partner

Ron Dennis has earmarked Sauber as a potential future second team for Honda, according to sources close to McLaren.

Dennis made it clear yesterday that Honda could not supply Red Bull in 2016 because the time scale made it impossible for the Japanese manufacturer to make enough parts.

However there is increasing pressure from Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone for Honda to work with another team from 2017, and Sauber presents an obvious opportunity, not least because McLaren would not regard the Swiss team as a direct rival.

Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn insisted that there was only a general discussion about Sauber’s engine situation at the recent F1 Commission, but she admitted that longer term, options were open.

“There was a lot of engine talk going on in the meeting when we were all in there,” she told this writer. “And in that context we were discussing an option like that, and more looking at the past and what had happened.

“In the context of that we also had a talk about what our engine situation is, and we said we are currently bound, but you should always keep all options open. It was embedded in a bigger public talk about engine suppliers having to supply more teams. We have a long lasting relationship with Ferrari, it’s a good relationship. But no one knows what’s going to be in two, three or four years.”

Intriguingly Kaltenborn admitted that she had talked in the past to former Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi about the possibility of the team getting a Honda supply.

“There was once an idea that we were thinking of maybe having Honda. We were not approached by Honda, put it like this, but it was because of Kamui Kobayashi, who came and asked us. Don’t ask me if it was last year or the year before, but this was the context of that talk.”


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Predictable results turn fans off, says Horner

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that the Mercedes domination is not good for F1 – and qualified his opinion by insisting that despite Sebastian Vettel’s four titles his team was never in such a strong position.

Horner says that the sport has to realise that the fans are important.

I think that predictable and serial results, serial winning, is difficult for any sport,” he said. “We were accused of it but we never enjoyed the continuation of success or longevity of success. Two of our world championships went to the last race and we never ever finished 1-2 in a world championship, and I think that inevitably with that kind of predictabilty, people get turned off and it needs a re-jig to bring it closer together.

I don’t think anyone wants to see Fernando Alonso just taking part, we want to see him competing, we want to see Daniel Ricciardo competing, we want to see Sebastian Vettel competing against Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The teams will never achieve that, because there is far too much self interest, and you cannot expect the teams to achieve that. That is for the regulator, and the governing body, to come up with a set of rules that achieves those objectives.”

With talks contuuing about future engine rules Horner denied that the sport is in crisis.

Crisis is a strong word. There are things that need sorting out for the future. We need strong leadership at any time of uncertainty. That is vitally important and we need strong leadership from the commercial rights holder (Bernie Ecclestone) and the governing body, to plot the path of the future that addresses what the fans need and what the fans want to see.

Because without them, there is no F1. And F1 ultimately has to be a show, it has to be entertainment and it has to appeal to a broad spectrum of fans and spectators.”


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FIA Stewards tighten rules on team co-operation

The FIA Stewards have responded to the request for Mercedes for clarification of he rules concerning technical co-operation between teams, especially in respect of wind tunnel use.

The Mercedes submission was made in the light of widespread suspicions in the paddock that Ferrari has gained from its relationship with Haas F1. The new team is using the Maranello wind tunnel as it prepares for its entry in 2016. Signifcantly, today’s ruling will not apply retrospectively.

The Stewards have also said that no one has been behaving incorrectly, despite the suggestions about Ferrari and Haas, in essence because the new team was not yet an official competitor: “Having examined the reports (including audit reports team facilities) provided to us, the Stewards confirm that there is no evidence that competitors have not complied with the requirements of Appendices 6 and 8 as they were interpreted prior to today’s date.”

The stewards have tightened up the definition of many areas of the relevant rules as pinpointed Mercedes, all of which make it harder to teams to share aero data. Among them is a restriction on staff being seconded from one team to another: “No employee of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development may be seconded to, or temporarily employed by, another competitor unless such secondment or employment is a genuine long term arrangement for the sole purpose of providing the other competitor with technical expertise. Any seconded employee must not then return to the original competitor without a suitable (or normal) period of “gardening leave” or “isolation”.”

One of the key conclusions of the Stewards report is that henceforth a new team has to comply with the same rules on wind tunnel use and so on as any other existing team from the moment that it is accepted. Currently this has been something of a grey area, with teams only regarded as becoming official competitors when the entry list is confirmed in December.

The FIA said: “The Stewards recommend to the FIA that in future once a potential competitor (as opposed to Official Entry) applies to be a competitor in the FIA Formula One World Championship and this application is accepted, that competitor should be bound by Appendices 6 and 8 (and for that matter any other appropriate sections of the Formula One Sporting and Technical Regulations).”

The stewards acknowledged that the point of aerodynamic restrictions was to keep a lid on costs: “That intention is understood to be to place limits on the amount of aerodynamic development each competitor is able to carry out and to prevent an escalation of the costs associated with research particularly, for Appendix 8, in the area of aerodynamic testing. None of the representations of the teams or any other party challenged this underlying objective. Accordingly our interpretation of the regulations as they stand has reflected the above intention.”


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Lotus F1 could close without Renault deal, says Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone believes that Lotus F1 will not survive if Renault boss Carlos Ghosn does not green light the takeover deal next week.

This week Ecclestone has been in talks with senior Renault executive Jerome Stoll about the team’s future income, on the basis that it becomes a works entry.

Team co-owner Gerard Lopez has said that the team still has a Mercedes contract as a Plan B, and if forced to remain independent Lotus would head into next season with a much reduced staffing level. However Ecclestone suggests that the team could not continue on that basis.

“I’m sure they’ll stop,” he told this writer. “They are running a business unsuccessfully, they haven’t got enough money to keep going. So they’ll stop. They’re in trouble with finance anyway, so I can’t see that a Mercedes contract is going to help.”

Regarding the crucial Renault decision he said: “No news. We’re waiting for Mr Ghosn on Monday.”

Ecclestone also confirmed that negotiations with Renault were complicated when an apparent agreement with FOM that guaranteed a 2016 supply for Red Bull was trumped by a separate deal between Renault and the team.

“We made an offer, they [Renault] came back saying we are happy with the offer, if you change this, this and this. We agreed to buy engines from them to supply to the teams. They said that’s good. We’d pay for the engines and we’d just sell them.

“So they had an offer from us on the table to buy engines to sell to Red Bull, to make sure they got an engine, and then they go and do a deal with Red Bull. We were trying to help, but they didn’t need any help, they did it on their own.”

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Mercedes engines still our Plan B, says Lotus boss

Lotus owner Gerard Lopez says that the team’s deal with Renault is done – and now it’s a question of a final green light from the French manufacturer’s top boss, Carlos Ghosn.

Senior Renault executive Jerome Stoll is in Abu Dhabi this weekend, and he has been trying to finalise an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone over future payments.

“We’ve done everything that we could,” Lopez told this writer. “As far as Lotus and Renault go, we have an agreement. I can tell you the contracts are finished. Then the rest, let’s wait and see.”

Asked if it was simply a case of waiting for a decision from Ghosn, who is expected to make a call on Monday, he said: “You can say that, yes.”

He added that Stoll’s talks with Ecclestone were progressing, and that it was a question of a small difference in figures.

“I think that is being done in a constructive way.”

Meanwhile Lopez is adamant that if the Renault deal collapses at the last minute the team can continue with its current engine supplier.

“There is Lotus F1 Team with a Mercedes engine. We would probably cut down to what I always said. If we cannot compete at this level, we don’t want to be funding it the way we did in the past, then we’ll run it at say 300 people. But that’s not the objective.

“The idea is to do Renault, but legally speaking, I can still run a Mercedes car next year. If I need it, we have a contract with Mercedes. We do, trust me. ”

Lopez also denied suggestions that the team had been baled out by Ecclestone after its freight arrived late at Abu Dhabi.

“Other teams are asking for their £10m advance. We haven’t, at all. I read that Bernie paid for everything here, which he didn’t. He advanced by a couple of days out monthly payment, that’s it.

“It’s not easy because we are refusing to just pour money into something when we know that the decision that we’ve taken is to sell. If I didn’t do that people would say he’s a bit of an idiot as a businessman.

“I think we’ve done the right thing, first of all to keep 470 people employed. Number two we’ve shown that with minimal development, this team can score points, which goes to show what others are doing with money. The third thing is we’ve pushed on with this deal.

“Either we get more money, or costs come down in F1, or it’s a constructors’ sport. If it is, then I might as well be a constructor, which is the aim for this team with Renault. At the end of the day all that bullshit about the financials and so on, we’re always there, we’re always competing.”

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Dennis on blocking Red Bull’s Honda deal: “Someone had to take a clear decision”

Ron Dennis admits he decreed that Honda could not supply Red Bull in 2016 – but the McLaren boss insists that the Japanese manufacturer was fully behind the decision.

Red Bull tried to get a Honda deal after failing with Mercedes and Ferrari, but despite help from Bernie Ecclestone, McLaren vetoed the idea.

Dennis says the possibility of Honda expanding to a second team came too late, and that the biggest issue was making enough parts given the pace of development.

“We sat with Honda and absolutely analysed where we were,” said Dennis when asked by this writer. “And absolutely analysed where we were, and would it enhance our ability to become competitive faster or not by bringing in another team, such as Red Bull, who would pressurise the system even more?

“Based on the current supply structure, where we are on the engine, the time before the first Grand Prix [of 2016], it was very, very clear that the decision really was that it wasn’t possible physically to push the suppliers up the supply chain to increased production, because we didn’t know what we wanted them to make.

“Our engine programme will be late next year because we want to take the maximum amount of time to make parts. How many parts do you make, bearing in mind there is a lot more freedom now. Anyone can design a new engine next year, everybody is designing a new engine.

“The more engines you have to make, the more your supply change gets stressed, because you have to develop components and then commit to how many you’re going to make – a lot of what you make in an R&D capacity is scrap. Just having increased the budget into F1 Honda could see no real economic logic at this stage to embrace another team.”

Dennis says he made the final call: “Someone had to take a clear decision, and as it needed someone to take a decision, I took one, and therefore took the understandable flak. But it was fully supported by Honda. We didn’t have the capacity to engage another team, but someone had to stand up and say this is not going to happen. It wasn’t me countering a desire of Honda, this was me taking responsibility for the decision, which goes with the job.”


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Renault’s F1 future in balance as talks with Ecclestone continue

Renault’s future in F1 remains in the balance, and the French company has yet to commit to purchasing Lotus.

The clock is ticking given that Lotus is in court on December 7, and the team faces the prospect of going into administration.

What I can say is that there will be no announcement regarding Renault’s future short term, or middle term future over the weekend,” said Renault Sport’s Cyril Abiteboul. “But there will be an announcement very likely in the course of next week.

We always said that we would like to do that after the season, the season is ending on Sunday, around at the start of December. So that is what we will do, we will make an announcement then. Later he told the BBC: Pulling out of F1 completely is on the table if we don’t manage to convince the board that F1 is a meaningful investment for Renault. 

Renault has always made clear that the deal to purchase Lotus and turn it back into a works team depended in large part on the financial numbers, and specifically on how much FOM money Bernie Ecclestone was willing to commit. However it’s understood that he has changed his mind on the original offer made to Renault.

Ecclestone is keen to have Renault back as a works player and saviour of the Enstone team, but even keener for Renault to maintain its role as engine supplier to Red Bull.

Sources have suggested that Ecclestone originally agreed a figure on the basis that Renault remained with RBR – in effect subsidising the team’s supply – but then discovered how much Red Bull has agreed to pay for the French engine on top of that. His view is understood to be that Renault would in effect be being paid twice for the same thing.

Senior executive Jerome Stoll, who is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Renault Group, as well as President of Renault Sport, has met with Ecclestone in Abu Dhabi to discuss the situation, and it’s understood that they will talk again on Saturday morning.

One complication for Renault is that by signing a 2016 contract with Red Bull the company is now obliged to be present in F1 next season, and one of Ecclestone’s key problems – finding an engine for RBR – has been solved. That has potentially weakened Renault’s hand in any negotiations, even if the future of Lotus remains under threat.


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