Category Archives: Grand Prix News

Teams ask Ecclestone to create room for 2016 summer shutdown

F1 teams have asked Bernie Ecclestone to adjust the 2016 provisional calendar in order to restore a longer summer break and incorporate a factory shutdown.

In recent years the calendar has left a gap of three free weekends between the Hungarian and Belgian GPs. Built into that is a two-week complete factory shutdown, and the teams are free to choose when they take it within that time frame.

The shutdown, during which teams even have to switch off their computer servers, is intended mainly to allow both race and factory staff to have a summer holiday. However, it also allows teams to conduct annual maintanance and work at their facilties, including wind tunnels.

However in the 2016 calendar approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council the break has been shrunk from three to two weekends. Adjusting it is complicated given that there are back-to-back races on either side of the break, with Germany/Hungary before it, and Belgium/Italy to follow. Some sources suggest that the Hockenheim race could yet drop out, which would allow Hungary to move – although given that advanced ticket sales for the German race start on Friday the race may be more secure than people think.

Team managers raised the issue of the shorter break with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting last weekend, and indicated that they don’t want to discuss ways of squeezing a factory shutdown into the shorter gap until the possibility of changing the calendar had been explored.

Later some team principals lobbied Bernie Ecclestone on the subject, making it clear to him that they now regard the shutdown as essential.

“I think the break is something that is important,” RBR boss Christian Horner told this writer. “F1 is such a demanding schedule for all people involved, not just technicians and people in the factory, but all the support staff, FOM, the media, and so on. It’s important to have that moment to catch your breath. So it’s something that has been raised with Bernie, and as we see sometimes the calendar does move around a bit before October.

“It’s nothing new in that the calendar does sometimes change a little, but obviously there’s a lot of races crammed into a shorter period. There’s usually a bit of fine tuning that goes on, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it did get tweaked a little bit.”

McLaren’s Eric Boullier agreed that the calendar could change: “We need to have a summer shutdown for the travelling people. We are discussing when we can do it and how long it will be. There are always some little tweaks to the calendar, so we should wait until later in the year.”

“From a Williams perspective the factory shutdown is important,” said Claire Williams. “The calendar is long and it’s arduous, and people put their blood, sweat and tears into going racing, and they sacrifice a lot to do that. Those two weeks, regardless of anything else, allows them time with their families, to have a bit of a normal life and a normal existence.

“To not have that is a concern. If I had I would have that conversation with Bernie I would put our arguments forward as to why it is important.”

Meanwhile Ecclestone himself says that that he does not anticipate any changes.

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Christian Horner: “I think we are going to live in the moment…”

Hungary saw a huge turnaround in fortunes for Red Bull Racing as Dany Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo finished second and third, but team boss Christian Horner is under no illusions as the track disguised the lack of performance from the Renault engine.

We knew that this track would play to some of our strengths,” said Christian Horner. “And it is great that we managed to capitalise on that with a double podium, with Dany Kvyat’s first podium, Daniel Ricciardo’s first podium of the year. it was great team performance and I think that this type of circuit with lack of dependency on straightline speed has played to our strengths.”

Ricciardo could have been in with a shout of victory had he not made contact with Nico Rosberg with seven laps to go, and required a new wing. Unlike the Mercedes driver and leader Sebastian Vettel, he was on the softer tyre.

It felt a little bit like deja vu from last year, we strategically made the call at the first stop to put the hard tyre on, we felt our only possibilities would be in the later part of the race if there were a safety car and sure enough we had that set of tyres left, the safety car came out and it teed it up beautifully.

The surprising thing for us was that Rosberg went on to the hard tyre and Lewis had to take the hard tyre and Kimi had an issue, so Daniel made his way past Kimi fairly easily and managed to find his way past Lewis.

There was quite a big contact, which damaged the car quite significantly, But despite that he was able to close in on the leading pair and he was always going to have a go, and obviously got a run up the inside, got in a bit too deep and Nico came across his bows on the exit, and it looked like a racing incident. It is a shame without that, if he had managed to get pass Nico it would have set up an interesting finish with Seb.”

Horner says he’s not yet worrying about the upcoming power circuits.

I think we are going to live in the moment for now, and think about Spa after the break – particularly Monza. They are going to be much more challenging than here. Singapore is probably our next opportunity to shine. We will keep pushing, keep developing the car, you never know it could be wet in Spa and you have to be in a position when those days where it doesn’t quite go right for others.

The aero boys have made some improvements around the front of the car, mechanically there has been a bit of an improvement as well, the penalty of the regulation changes over the winter did hurt us with the front end of the car but we have now recovered that. I think the last two or three races have been positive on the chassis side.”

Meanwhile Horner said the race was good for the sport: “F1 put on a great show today. There are talk of changes to the circuit, but don’t! It produces good races here, I think F1 races like that, when you get a variable factor and slightly different tyre strategies it bought the race alive today.”

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Daniel Ricciardo: “It was a crazy race…”

Daniel Ricciardo survived contact with thee other drivers to take third place in Hungary, despite one of the incidents forcing him to pit for a new nose.

Ricciardo touched Valterri Bottas on the third lap, and was later involved with incidents with both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg while fighting for position.

Red Bull had looked competitive all weekend at a track where ultimate power is less important.

“It was a crazy race,” said Ricciardo. “Already from the start, the first corner there was pretty big contact with, I think, Bottas, and the front of the car jumped and I thought we’d damaged something. It was quite a big hit.

“But then we seemed to still have relatively good pace. I saw Dany in front was struggling, so then the team decided to, let’s say, let me go through. I was saying I was faster and knew we could do better pace. So then we got quickly past the Force India and then quickly back past Bottas with some good moves. Then the pace was pretty good. At the restart we had the Option, that was an advantage. That was pretty much an advantage from yesterday by only using the Prime in Q1 so were able to take advantage of that today I guess.”

Ricciardo was then hit by Hamilton: “Then the restart, I just tried to go around the outside of Lewis. You don’t see much in the cars. Obviously your peripheral vision’s pretty limited but I just felt him come in, so I just assumed he’d locked the front wheel and slid up into me, so we had more damage after that. I saw the right sidepod flapping around. Nonetheless, we’re in third.

“I saw the pace was good, we were catching Seb and Nico and I was close – but not close enough – to Nico and obviously they’re not so slow on the straights. The laps were ticking down, I had to try something and I got a pretty good run out of the last corner and yeah, just said ‘I’m going for it this lap, no matter what,’ and I went for it.”

The pair made contact on the exit of Turn One after Ricciardo had tried to pass.

“To be honest, the move, it was, for sure, late but it was clean. Up until the apex it was fine. Obviously Nico saw me and left me room on the entry and then, just the exit, from what I recall he just came back across and just basically didn’t give me enough room. I don’t know if he thought he’d cleared me yet – but we made contact and that was when he earned a puncture and I got the front wing damage.”

Like other drivers, Ricciardo said he’d had Jules Bianchi on his mind this week.

“As all the drivers have said, this race was for Jules. I left everything on the track. Whether some competitors like it or not, that’s how I wanted to do it and that’s how I’ll always do it. And watching Jules grow up, that was how he did it. He had amazing race craft and made some pretty impressive lunges. I drove inspired today and I’m happy to be standing up here. It’s been an emotional week.”

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Red Bull forced to wait until Russian GP for Renault upgrades

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that Renault will not introduce any power unit performance upgrades before October’s Russian GP in Sochi.

That means the RBR and Toro Rosso drivers will have to get through Spa, Monza, Singapore and Suzuka before they see any improvement in the engine’s performance.

Renault still has 12 in-season development tokens, and the company is expected to use them to produce a revised V6 and turbo – but which will now be available only for the final five races of the season.

“I don’t think anything is scheduled now before Sochi,” said Horner today. “That probably is the earliest that we’re going to see any development or use of the tokens. The engines that we’ve got at the moment are what we’re having to live with for the time being.”

The extra problem for Daniel Ricciardo is that after a failure today he only has one usable V6 to use. If he needs another one before Sochi he will take a grid penalty and will also be stuck with the current spec – unless he takes a further penalty in Russia or beyond in order to get the upgraded engine.

Horner explained: “Engines four and five are what the drivers have been using between Friday and Sunday racing. Unfortunately Ricciardo has now lost engine four, so he’s only got engine five that came into service for the first time in Austria to get him through the next few races. Only time will tell as to whether we can get to Sochi or not without incurring another penalty before introducing an upgraded unit.”

Horner insisted that Red Bull would still be with Renault next year.

“Renault would be the first to admit that they are not at all happy with where performance and reliabilty has been with this engine. They are making progress, they are making strides. The problem with engines is that unlike the chassis they are long lead time items. Renault have got strategically some decisions to take over the coming weeks in terms of the direction they want to go, not just for 2016 but beyond that.

“We have an agreement with Renault to the end of next year, and of course as a partner we’re expecting them to enable us to run in a competitive manner. In order to do that we need a competitive engine. Of course Renault need that more than anybody as well for both their customer teams.”

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Lotus able to run after making Pirelli payment

Lotus will be able to take part in the Hungarian GP weekend after Pirelli released the Enstone team’s tyres this morning.

A commercial issue, understood to involve a late payment, meant that Pirelli held onto the tyres overnight. The tyres had not even been mounted and prepared, as the rims and blankets remained at the Lotus truck.

Although the team was able to indicate last night that payment would be made, it was only this morning – presumably as a result of the banks opening in Europe – that the transfer was confirmed.

Team principal Matthew Carter was in phone contact with Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery, who was still en route to the track, and at 9.10am the team was given permission to take possession of the tyres. Deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi even helped to transport the crates of empty rims to the Pirelli truck.

Hembery would only say: “They will be in P1. Everything’s fine.”

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Nasr and Ericsson to stay on at Sauber in 2016

Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson have both been confirmed as Sauber race drivers for 2016.

The news comes as no surprise given that both men bring substantial sponsorship to the Swiss team, but it does mean that Nasr is no longer a potential candidate for Williams, should Valtteri Bottas move to Ferrari. Nasr was the Williams third driver last year.

“This early point in time shows that the drivers and the team are sure they are heading in the right direction,” said team boss Monisha Kaltenborn. “We have full confidence in the talents and skills of Marcus and Felipe. Both have shown solid performances, gained experience and learnt quickly. We enjoy having them in the team and they give it a positive boost.”

“I had a great start from the very beginning,” said Ericsson. “And it is worth mentioning my first points in Formula One that I scored right away during the season-opener. I am getting to know everyone within the team more and more, and feel I am being appreciated as a valuable driver.”

“The extension to the contract with the Sauber F1 Team is an important step in my career,” said Nasr. “During the first half of the season, in what is my rookie year, I was able to gain a lot of experience from a driving perspective as well as on the personal side. Finishing fifth at my first ever Formula One race in Melbourne in the Australian Grand Prix is so far my career highlight. Now I am looking forward to the second half of the season. My objective is to support the team as best I can, and also with regard to the development of the new car.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “We have been shown once more the dangers of our sport”

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have expressed their thoughts after attending Jules Bianchi’s funeral in Nice yesterday.

Championship leader Hamilton stressed that the sport should continue its push to improve safety.

“Saying goodbye to Jules was incredibly hard for everyone,” said Hamilton in a team preview. “For myself, I wished I had known him better. But from what I knew of him, he was a kind heart with a great spirit and a bright future.

“Now our sport embarks on a tough road ahead. We have been shown once more the dangers of our sport, that these should be respected and that we drivers commit ourselves to the chance that those dangers are there when we step into the car. We have made great progress for safety thus far and I know that the FIA will continue to make steps forward to improve even further.

“Hungary is a beautiful place, one of my favourites. I will be carrying Jules with me in my prayers and thoughts, not only this race but for the rest of my driving days. I know he’d want us to race hard as he did, and so I will.”

“It has been a very emotional week,” said Rosberg. “The drivers paid our final respects to Jules and said farewell. He was a very talented driver and a good guy. My thoughts in these days are with his family and close friends. Everyone will be sharing the same feelings in the paddock this week – but we must race on and race hard for Jules as he would have wanted to be doing himself.”

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