Category Archives: Grand Prix News

FIA to drop extra race penalties for untaken grid places

Drivers will henceforth no longer get extra race penalties for untaken power unit grid penalties, the F1 Strategy Group has decided.

For this season the rules changes so that untaken places can generate five and 10 second time penalties, drive through penalties and 10 second stop and go penalties for drivers who have in any case already been demoted to the back of the grid.

That has proved hugely unpopular with the public, so from now on the intention is that the severest penalty will be a back of the grid start.

There was some talk of the change being introduced for this weekend’s British GP, if it could be fast-tracked through. However FIA sources have confirmed that the change has to go through the correct procedures, so it won’t happen before Hungary.

“That’s a sensible outcome,” Christian Horner told this writer. “Theoretically I don’t see why it can’t be done for this weekend – it could be done on a fax vote for this weekend, if not, worst case is Hungary. I think generally it was a constructive meeting, some positive ideas coming out of it.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “It’s going to be a very hard weekend…”

Lewis Hamilton says he’s hoping to have a “real race” with team mate Nico Rosberg at Silverstone after they each suffered a problem in the last two British GPs.

Hamilton had a tyre failure in 2013, while last year Rosberg retired with a gearbox problem.

“It’s going to be a very hard weekend for sure,” said Hamilton today. “Nico’s going to be very quick. I can’t say who’s going to be our main competitor this weekend, it could be Williams, it could be Ferrari. I think this weekend is going to be down to getting a good qualifying, and really just extracting the most from it in the race.

“The last couple of years I’ve not really done spectacularly in qualifying, and one year it’s been difficult for Nico with a car issue and one year it’s been an issue with me. So I’m hoping we’ll have a race where we can actually just fight and have a real race.”

Hamilton said that he didn’t feel a particularly need to have to bounce back after Austria: “I feel really happy with my performance over the weekends, more so than perhaps in other years, where I’ve perhaps been unhappy with the performance at some point. The last couple of races I’ve had some ups and downs, the last one the start made a huge difference.

“The good thing is that from the mishaps, from things that happen, we study and analyse them and often fix them or make improvements to make sure they don’t happen again. And particularly after the last race Nico simulated what happened for me at the start in the car, and found a serious issue that could have affected us this weekend. That’s now been rectified and improved.”

Meanwhile Nico has invited Lewis to join the rest of the Mercedes team for a barbecue in the BRDC campsite tonight.

“Nico’s very kindly invited me as well. I’m staying next door to him as well. Free food is always the best thing!”

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Urgency for F1 improvements, says CVC boss Mackenzie

Donald Mackenzie, the chairman of F1’s key shareholder CVC, has said that there’s an urgent need to address the sport’s issue.

Mackenzie has been a regular sight at Grands Prix this year as discussions continue about how to improve the show. He was also present at the Strategy Group meeting on May 14th, where many ideas were bounced around.

“I think the sport is actually much better than people are writing,” he told this website. “But there is definitely some urgency to see some improvements made, to make it a more exciting sport. Bernie, the teams and the FIA are working on it, and I hope some of the improvements will come along soon.”

Mackenzie acknowledged that things like the multiple power unit grid penalties we saw in Austria are not popular with the public.

“We don’t like that either. It does seem unfair that the driver gets punished for a poor engine, or a mechanical failure. But that’s the FIA’s domain. I know that there’s goodwill everywhere to see if we can make it more interesting and exciting for the fans.

“I’m not sure that refuelling is one of the top priorities. I think we’re just trying to work out how to make the cars go faster. They need more fuel to go quicker, and someone said we might need to refuel, but it was never a strategy.”

Asked about the impact of Dietrich Mateschitz’s recent complaints Mackenzie said: “I think he’s obviously disappointed about where the team is. But he’s a good guy, and I’m sure they’re going to sort that team out, and he’ll be winning again. Red Bull need a better engine than they have, and it would be great if Renault could come up with it. Bernie’s trying to find them a better engine.”

Mackenzie reiterated that CVC has no interest in providing more money for the struggling midfield teams, but said that there was a bigger picture that could ultimately help them.

“There are contracts in place, and they agreed with the contracts when they signed them. It’s always annoying when people change their minds later. We want to help the small teams when we can. We can reduce costs, make the sport more attractive, and get more sponsorship. That would be a good thing.”

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Max Mosley: “I don’t really see Bernie’s role changing…”

Former FIA President Max Mosley believes that Bernie Ecclestone is likely to stay on and run continue to run F1 even if the sport is sold on by CVC.

US firm RSE Ventures has been linked with a joint bid with Qatar to buy CVC’s 35% shareholding.

“I think it’s still very early days for a possible takeover,” Mosley said in a BBC radio interview today. “Because before they actually move they will do due diligence, and that will take some little time. A lot will then come out about the current state of the sport, which may or may not encourage them.

“But I think whatever happens, if it is taken over, I don’t really see Bernie’s role changing – unless and until he wants it to change. Because he’s the person who’s managed to sell it everywhere. I’m sure CVC has had thoughts about an 84-year-old chief executive. The fact is that there’s nobody else that does the job as well. That’s my gut feeling.”

Asked about Ecclestone’s survival at the top of the sport he said: “I think the thing is he’s pretty amazing, the way he keeps going. Most of us, when we get to a certain age – and I’m quite a big younger than him but still old – you get tired. I said to him the other day, don’t you feel tired in the afternoon? And he said then the phone calls come in and the emails come in, and the adrenalin goes. I think the fact is that he’s really interested in what he does and does it very well. Age then tends to be flexible.”

Meanwhile Mosley said that the high spending by the big teams was F1’s major problem at the moment.

“I think there have been a few strategic errors, but the fundamental thing is because it’s become so expensive, and you’re allowed to spend as much money as you can get your hands on, then you have two or three teams at the top who spend a vast amount of money, then you have a succession of teams, like a tail end, who’ve got much less money. So they can’t compete.

“And that means then that the grid is relatively uncompetitive, and that of course interferes with the show. The key move would be to make the small teams competitive, and there are one or two ways of doing that. If Bernie and the FIA get together, they can overrule the teams. Put crudely that’s how it is.”

Mosley also reiterated his suggestion that teams spending less money should have more technical freedom.

“The way to solve the problem is to say to the small teams you can have more technical freedom on condition that you work within a cost cap. So then they for example would be allowed to have a moveable front wing. There are a thousand things that they could do to make their cars competitive with the very expensive cars at the front, but on a much smaller budget. The expensive cars at the front would say, ‘I can’t stand for that, I can’t get overtaken by one of the small teams,’ to which the answer is you could operate under the same regime should you choose to do so.

“Fundamentally the problem is soluble, but it needs a fairly determined attack on the current structure.”

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Button joins Alonso, Ricciardo and Kvyat on grid penalties

Jenson Button has been handed 25 places of grid penalties in Austria after changing engine components overnight.

Button became the first driver to take a sixth power unit element in 2015 when he went to his sixth turbo, and his sixth MGU-H. The first change earns him 10 places, and the second another five. In addition he has gone to his fifth V6 and fifth MGU-K, which are worth five places each, making for a total of 25.

The FIA has confirmed that it was informed last Tuesday that the first three changes would happen in Austria, but the MGU-K was added to the job list only on Friday night.

Fernando Alonso already had 20 places of engine grid penalties, but he has picked up another five today after a gearbox failure in FP3 necessitated a change. Both McLaren drivers look set to face a drive through or more likely a 10s stop and go in the race because they won’t be able to use up the grid penalties.

Meanwhile Daniil Kvyat has officially joined RBR team mate Daniel Ricciardo on a 10 place penalty after taking a new V6 overnight.

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Massa cautions that F1 was “worse” when Senna was winning

Felipe Massa has cautioned that critics of current F1 have forgotten that the racing was not always close in the past.

While discussing possible future rules changes the Williams driver cited the Ayrton Senna and McLaren Honda era as an example of people looking back with rose-tinted spectacles at a time when one team was dominant.

“When it was 20 years of Ayrton’s crash I remember in Brazil they were showing all the races,” said Massa. “And I was watching most of the races he did, it was a lot worse than how it is now. The difference in the qualifying was maybe 1.5 seconds to the third [place], they were lapping the third every race. So the difference was a lot bigger than it is now. But when you speak to the people everybody says the past is amazing.

“So go back and watch, and then compare to now. So I think this is something that people need to do, not looking in the past without remembering so well, and just saying the past was amazing. The past looks more interesting also, because the tracks were a lot worse, they were a lot more bumpy, so when you see the cars driving with the bumps it looks more difficult. But now everything is more for our world, everything is more safe, the tracks are different.”

Massa is adamant that any rule changes for 2017 should be properly thought through.

“When I see Kimi [Raikkonen] or Niki Lauda say that it needs to be more dangerous, I don’t agree it needs to be more dangerous, I just agree it needs to be better, it needs to be more intelligent. There needs to be a very important study to make things more intelligent, not just to change. I think in F1 we always had a lot of change, but maybe some times change is not changing anything, so I think that’s important.

“I don’t believe the FIA will change the tracks and make [them] more dangerous, because I don’t think it’s correct, I just believe we need to think about the changes, and be more intelligent, to see where we can improve. So maybe this is something we need to understand.”

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Sebastian Vettel: “We need to have a flawless weekend”

Sebastian Vettel is in optimistic mood heading into the Austrian GP weekend, although the Ferrari star concedes that he’ll only get a shot at victory if Mercedes under performs in some way.

“I think ideally we always try to fight for the win,” he said on Thursday. “I know that we have a strong package this year, a strong car, so if everything goes normal then we should be a little bit further up again, especially on Saturday this weekend.

“But we also have to be realistic [in] challenging the Mercedes. We know that first of all we need to have a flawless weekend, a perfect weekend and maybe hoping for them to have a little bit of a struggle. But in normal circumstances it is quite difficult to beat them as they are still the favourites going in, and there is still quite a big gap.”
Meanwhile Vettel conceded that he enjoyed his charge through the field in Canada.

“For sure it was more entertaining than the races before. It’s normal when you come from the back. Obviously first of all you go through cars that are slower than you. In general, obviously it was busier and at the end once I had my position I think I could extract a little bit more the pace of the car.

“But overall it was quite exciting and it was a good recovery, valuable points. We avoided all the risk in the opening lap which is always a bit messy if you are in the back of the field, but fortunately it all worked out and as I said we could get good points.”

Regarding prospects for the rest of the year he added: “First of all I think you have to see that it is natural that from track to track it might vary a bit but I think we’ve already done an incredible job. If you look at winter testing and where we are now, I think we consider ourselves to be quite a bit closer. Yeah, obviously it’s not that easy to make the gap smaller and smaller because Mercedes is a strong team, and obviously they are improving as well.

“They introduced a new spec of engine in Canada so they’re also making progress but our target for sure, is to make bigger progress to finally close the gap, so for sure, we are hoping that in the second part of the season, we are starting to get closer – closer than we are now.”

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