Category Archives: Grand Prix News

Felipe Massa: “I like the idea of refuelling…”

Felipe Massa says he supports the move towards the return of refuelling in 2017, as well as the general push to have faster cars.

The Brazilian is also keen on the plan for teams being able to choose which tyre compounds to use, a change set to be introduved for next season.

“I like the idea of refuelling because the race is quicker, the car is quicker,” said Massa when asked by this writer. “We race with a very heavy car and the race is very technical today. It used to be a lot nicer for the driving point of view, and that’s why I like the idea of the refuelling.

“Plus for the teams to choose the tyres, we can see a change because of of that. For sure in most of the races I don’t think Pirelli choose the wrong tyres. Some of the races they are a little bit too conservative, some of the races, not. If you take 85-90% of the races, it’s more or less correct. But you will see things… Especially the teams that don’t have a good car they will choose, and they will risk. Maybe it can change a little bit especially the qualifying, because the team has quicker tyres for the qualifying, and maybe they can go back in the race. We need to understand, but I think it’s OK to have it.

“Maybe some changes for the fans or the people are OK to have, so we’ll wait and see. The cars should be quicker as well. I think they will put more downforce on the car, more power in the engine, plus maybe wider tyres. I think it’s difficult to say before, before you drive the car, it’s a little bit difficult.”

Asked about the Strategy Group’s target of quicker lap times he said: “Maybe 5-6 seconds is a little bit too much, but for sure we want to go as fast as we can, for sure we want competition as well. I remember before when we had a lot of downforce maybe you didn’t even see overtaking in the race, and now the DRS helps.

“This is the only doubt that we need to understand, that they still keep the challenge in a good way. We have already good power from the engine, so maybe we’re going to have a little bit more, which will be more interesting, it’s fine to have. I think more important than the power is the noise for the people.”

Meanwhile when reminded that fuel stops can go wrong – as happened to Felipe in Singapore in 2008 – the Brazilian made it clear that he remembers that race more for the ‘Crashgate’ scandal.

“In Singapore the refuelling was not a problem, the problem was the mechanic that pressed the button at the wrong time. Even if it was not the refuelling and the tyres were not there I was going out with a problem anyway. Especially in Singapore the biggest problem was a fake race as well. So many things happened in that race, it wasn’t just the refuelling that was a problem. It was a race that was supposed to be cancelled, and it was not, unfortunately…”


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Lynn aiming to shine in Monaco after Williams test boost

GP2 frontrunner Alex Lynn made a good impression on his first test for Williams in Barcelona last week, and the Briton subsequently had the chance to sample Monaco on the Grove team’s simulator – which was a useful boost ahead of his debut on the streets of the principality.

Lynn, who won the Sunday GP2 race in Spain, is hoping to use the his Williams test role as a springboard to an eventual race seat.

“I think it was a great first day with the team,” he told this writer. “You always go into quite confident, expecting it to go well, and I think it went as expected. We didn’t get a huge amount of laps, because we were limited on engine mileage.

“But we managed to do some stuff for Monaco and correlation for the upgrades the team brought to Barcelona. We got up to speed quite quickly, so the team could get on with their work, and I got used to driving an F1 car a bit more. All-in-all it was a really solid and very successful day.”

One of the big benefits for Williams that that Lynn does a lot of the team’s simulator running, and it was important to let him get a feel for the actual car: “It’s massively useful to be honest, because Valtteri and Felipe, with their busy schedules, don’t get a huge amount of time in the sim. Giving me some time in the real car it allows us to crack on with the nitty gritty in the simulator to try and get it as perfect as possible.”

Barcelona was the only day of track running on Lynn’s schedule, but he says he is not frustrated by that.

“It is what it is. I got my opportunity, and I’m glad I gave a good account of myself. Hopefully the team were happy. At the end of the day if I impressed them then my next time in the car shouldn’t be too far away. But at the moment my attention switches back to performing in GP2. That’s my way of, let’s say, impressing.”

Meanwhile the former Macau GP winner says that while this week will be his first experience of Monaco he’s determined to get up to speed quickly.

“It’s going to be a special first lap, that’s for sure! And probably an eye-opening one. I feel as prepared as I can be going into the weekend. I’ve done a lot of work with the team to get myself as comfortable as I can, and then it all comes down to not crashing in free practice and learning as much possible.

“I know that last year DAMS had a very good car there, so that’s one factor taken out of the equation. And then it will come down to me learning quickly and adapting. I’m not underestimating how hard it’s going to be, but I do expect to adapt quickly and make progress very quickly. That’s the aim in many ways.”

He had an extra bonus today when David Coulthard joined him for an early morning bike ride and gave him some pointers.

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Bottas the man on every top F1 team’s shopping list

Valtteri Bottas continues to figure high on the shopping lists of leading teams that might be looking for a change of driver in the future.

The Finn underlined his position as the man that all team bosses are watching by holding off Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps in Bahrain, and then doing the same with Kimi Raikkonen in Spain. Despite missing the first race in Australia the Williams driver lies fifth in the World Championship, ahead of team mate Felipe Massa.

His manager Didier Coton says that while there is no substance to the recent stories linking the Finn to Ferrari it does no harm to have Bottas recognised as the man in demand.

“For a driver like Valtteri it’s a nice return on the sacrifice and commitment that he’s put into the sport and into his driving,” Coton told this writer. “It’s all positive. Frankly speaking what people call the ‘silly season’ is not on yet’, so let’s stay relaxed about it. What happened last week [with Ferrari], I don’t know where it came from. It’s a rumour, and it was launched by I don’t know who.

“Personally I consider that Williams is a top team. Valtteri is with Williams and he’s concentrating on that. We saw again in Spain that he did a great race, and we will continue to speak with them, and see after.

“Our job is to look at what he wants to achieve, and it’s our job to help him to achieve that. Sometimes it’s a long term objective, it’s not something that will happen in one year, it may happen in two years or three years. So the most important thing is to build a path to that objective, even if it takes a bit more time.”

Coton indicated that it would be wrong to assume that Bottas has no ongoing ties with Williams after this season: “I cannot go into details of contracts, but you have free agents and free agents.”


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Pastor Maldonado: “I think we are not that far from Williams”

Pastor Maldonado says that Lotus is not far off the pace of Williams – and says he is hoping to make Q3 in Monaco, a track where he has shown well in the past.

Maldonado has yet to make the points in 2015, while team mate Romain Grosjean has scored in each of the last three races. He is officially last in the World Championship, behind the two Manor drivers.

“It’s difficult to say,” he told this writer when asked about his Monaco hopes. “We were expecting to be a little bit more competitive in Spain in quali, we weren’t, but we did a great strategy on saving tyres for the race at the same time.

“Monaco is very particular. We know we are going to be on the supersofts, but they are not very supersoft. We’ve been struggling in the past to put temperature in the tyres. Quali is very important there, it’s not only one lap, but it’s difficult to say. I hope to get 100% from the car, and be in the top 10. That would be awesome.

“The car is not bad. It’s not the best, or the second best, but I think we are not that far from Williams. They are still a little bit ahead of us, especially in qualifying. In the races we are coming very close. In some stints we are a bit quicker, not a lot, maybe one tenth. I think they have more degradation than us, so at the beginning of the stint they are quicker, at the end of the stint we are quicker. We are quite close to them, but we need to get closer.”

Maldonado’s Spanish GP was spoiled by wing damage after contact with Grosjean, but not before he’d caught the eye with some good passing moves.

“I was just trying to get the best from the car. It’s possible to do it, but it’s never easy. I was driving quite well in the last sector, just trying to get close. That was the key.”

Barcelona’s Sector 3 is seen as a useful test for Monaco: “The traction was quite good, maybe not the total speed in the corner because of the downforce compared to the top teams, but the traction was really good.”


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Refuelling back as FIA plans faster F1 cars for 2017

A return to refuelling is one of the measures the FIA is planning for 2017 in an attempt to give the sport a boost.

Almost 24 hours after yesterday’s Strategy Group meeting ended a joint statement from Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt outlined some of what had been discussed:

The Formula One Strategy Group met yesterday in Biggin Hill to exchange views on the current challenges that F1 faces. Besides the statuary members of the Group, representatives of the engine manufacturers were also invited.

The Strategy Group members have debated a number of levers aimed at improving the show. An initial series of measures has been voted:

For 2016:
– Free choice of the two dry tyre compounds (out of four) that each team can use during the race weekend
For 2017:
– Faster cars: 5 to 6 seconds drop in lap times through aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tyres and reduction of car weight
– Reintroduction of refuelling (maintaining a maximum race fuel allowance)
– Higher revving engines and increased noise
– More aggressive looks

A few other measures have also been discussed but require further investigation before they can be implemented:
– A global reflection on race weekend format
– Measures to make starts only activated by the driver without any outside assistance

Furthermore, in light of the various scenarios presented by the independent consulting company mandated by the F1 Strategy Group, at the initiative of the FIA, to work on the reduction of costs and following a constructive exchange, a comprehensive proposal to ensure the sustainability of the sport has emerged.

The Strategy Group member Teams have committed to refine it in the next few weeks, in consultation with the other teams involved in the championship. On the engine side, it has been decided that stability of the rules should prevail in consideration of the investments of the manufacturers involved in the sport and to give visibility to potential new entrants. The allowance for a 5th engine to be used during the 2015 season has been rejected.

This constructive meeting between the FIA, FOM and the Teams has allowed paving the way for the future of the championship. All parties agreed to work together with an intention to firm up these proposals and submit them to the approval of the F1 Commission and the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA as soon as possible for implementation.


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F1 customer car plan in hand if struggling teams collapse

Ron Dennis has helped to convince the F1 Strategy Group to formally support the long-standing provision for third cars from top teams being introduced to make up the numbers should a current team fail – with customer car teams as the potential next step.

Both options are supposedly in the works only if they are needed should car numbers dwindle due to team financial collapses. And yet at the same meeting any discussions about the sort of cost-cutting or a redistribution of income that might help to save the struggling outfits apparently quickly fizzled out, in the face of opposition from the works-supported teams.

There was also no debate about a cheaper alternative engine being introduced for smaller teams – potentially a twin-turbo with KERS but not a full hybrid – despite Bernie Ecclestone pushing the idea in recent weeks.

The works teams now have to get together a proposal and a format for how customer cars could work, which presumably will have to be completed ahead of the next F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council meetings in July.

It’s understood that the existing independent teams such as Lotus, Sauber, Force India and Manor will be given “first refusal” on whether or not they want to switch to using customer cars, although none has indicated any support for such an idea, and they clearly won’t be too impressed that it is being pushed through.

It’s no surprise that Dennis was fully behind the potential move towards customer cars in the meeting. McLaren has long been a supporter of the concept, and with Honda in dire need of a second team with which to get track mileage, it makes sense more than ever.

There is no shortage of drivers, with Kevin Magnussen, Stoffel Vandoorne, Nyck de Vries and Honda protege Nobuhara Matsushita all available.

Intriguingly the ART GP2 cars of Vandoorne and Matsushita ran in full McLaren replica livery in Barcelona last weekend, further strengthening the ties between the F1 team and the outfit co-owned by Nicolas Todt. It would be logical to suggest that ART would be able to step forward and run McLaren customer cars in the future, should the opportunity arise.

McLaren also has an ongoing relationship with Manor, although the team’s difficult financial position is a potential hurdle.


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‘Constructive’ meeting for F1 Strategy Group

No official statement has emerged since today’s lengthy meeting of the F1 Strategy Group in Biggin Hill, and which was attended by Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt and representatives of Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams and Force India.

However the word on the street is that it was a ‘constructive’ meeting, and that more information on what was discussed will be revealed to the world on Friday.

Subjects on today’s agenda included the fifth engine for 2015, as well as longer term rule changes for 2017 and beyond.

The FIA has six votes, FOM has six votes, and each of the represented teams has a vote. Ideas agreed today still have to be passed to the F1 Commission – where the other teams, race promoters and sponsors are represented – and then on to the World Motor Sport Council, whose next meeting is in Mexico on July 10.


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