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Another name off the market as Hulkenberg commits to Force India

Nico Hulkenberg will stay with Force India for another two seasons, the team has confirmed.

The German had been linked with Haas – which potentially offered an eventual route into Ferrari – but he has decided to stay put.

I’m very pleased to finalise and announce my plans for the future,” he said. “I know this team inside out and I feel at home here, so it made perfect sense to make a long-term commitment. The progress the team has shown over the last two years has really impressed me and gives me confidence for the future.

It’s a great group of people who are hungry for success and want to keep improving year-on-year. I think we have the important things in place going forward and I want to continue growing with this team as we move even further up the grid.”

Team boss Vihay Mallya added: “I make no secret of being one of Nico’s biggest fans and so it’s fantastic to confirm him as our driver for the next couple of seasons. He has spent almost four years with us already and in that time we’ve seen him develop into one of the best racing drivers in the world. Nico has the speed, the technical knowledge and the maturity to help us achieve some great results in the years ahead. We will do everything we can to continue delivering a car to match his talent.”

Hulkenberg’s confirmation leaves Esteban Gutierrez, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kevin Magnussen as favourites for Haas drives.

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Sebastian Vettel: Ferrari Spa strategy was not risky

Sebastian Vettel has broken his silence after the Belgian GP by underlining that he backed Ferrari’s one-stop strategy at Spa.

Vettel only spoke briefly to TV camera crews after the race, and not to print media, before dashing to the local airport – supposedly to beat an incoming storm. However, his TV comments revealed just how angry he was.

He has now reiterated that Ferrari didn’t take a risk by running a one-stopper and a long final stint.

In a statement in German on his website he said: “Just to make it clear, the team and I jointly decided on this strategy. I stand behind the team and the team is behind me. That makes us a team. The strategy was at no time risky. The team is not to blame.”

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Pirelli: We asked for mileage limits on tyres in 2013

Pirelli has responded to Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure at Spa by saying that it asked two years ago for a limit on the number of laps a driver could run on each type of tyre.

In a statement Pirelli says that its request “was not listened to.” The statement would appear to be an aggressive response to criticisms from Vettel and others today. Pirelli boss Paul Hembery has already made it clear that it believes that the German’s failure was due to wear, and that Ferrari pushed the limits in terms of mileage.

The statement said: “In November 2013, Pirelli requested that there should be rules to govern the maximum number of laps that can be driven on the same set of tyres, among other parameters to do with correct tyre usage. This request was not accepted.

The proposal put forward a maximum distance equivalent to 50% of the grand prix distance for the prime tyre and 30% for the option. These conditions, if applied today at Spa, would have limited the maximum number of laps on the medium compound to 22.”

Pirelli made no other comment on today’s race. It remains to be seen how the FIA reacts to the statement which would appear to be aimed at the governing body and the teams, who between them set the agenda for the F1 rules.

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Vettel’s tyre failure down to wear, says Pirelli boss Hembery

Pirelli motor sport boss Paul Hembery is adamant that Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure in the Belgian GP was a result of wear after Ferrari ran a single-stop stop strategy.

Ferrari has denied that it took any risks by trying to run 29 laps from Vettel’s lap 14 stop to the flag, but Hembery said it the issue was clear.

Rosberg was an external cut, this was pure wear,” he said. “If you look at the images, the carcass was still intact so it was a wear issue, the second one on Friday was a cut.

Actually it is the front tyre that gets hurt the most, that is the one you tend to be worried about here. Friday was a cut, and in this case it was wear. The tyre was finished.”

Hembery said Pirelli didn’t expect teams to run such a long stint.

He did 28 laps. It is more we thought the strategy was going to be based on two or three stops, which you saw the majority did. They felt clearly that they could make it work on a one-stop and the wear life was indicated at 40 laps – and race conditions can change that. Some factors involved in racing mean that is not precise data. Other teams were clearly taking a different direction.

Regarding Vettel’s reaction he said: “You can always understand a drivers’ reaction when they get hot out of the car. I am not going to say anything negative about that. With time you have a chat, but that is normal.

He added: “It is perfectly easy to say at the end of the race with hindsight. If the race had been one lap less he would have been on the podium and said what a genius move! That is tough.”

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Tyre failure is “unacceptable” says furious Vettel

Sebastian Vettel was keen to speak his mind when he faced TV cameras just a few minutes after a spectacular tyre failure robbed him of third place at Spa.

Vettel retired less than two laps from the flag after suffering a failure of the right rear, as experienced by Nico Rosberg on Friday.

The German denied that he and Ferrari had pushed the Pirellis too hard by trying to get from lap 14 to the finish at lap 43.

“How many laps I was missing, not many?,” he said. “Things like that are not allowed to happen, full stop. If it happened 200 metres earlier, I’m not standing here now, I’m with 300 [km/h] stuck in Eau Rouge. I don’t know what else needs to happen.

“I tell you what is upsetting, one thing is the result. This is racing. For sure we deserved to finish on the podium. The other thing as I said is if this happens earlier… I think it’s a sort of theme that’s going around, nobody’s mentioning, but it’s unacceptable.”

Vettel talked to the FIA about tyres in Friday afternoon’s drivers’ briefing, soon after the Rosberg failure. Asked if his view was taken seriously he said: “I think it was. But what’s the answer? Same as every time, there was a cut, debris, maybe something wrong with the bodywork, the driver went wide. Bullshit. If Nico tells us that he didn’t go off the track, he didn’t go off the track. Same with me, I didn’t go off the track, it’s just out of the blue, the tyre explodes. As I said if this happens earlier, then #####.”

Vettel said that the drivers should talk about the issue.

“I think we need to speak to each other. It’s probably not as bad as it was in Silverstone some years ago, but it’s not acceptable.”

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Romain Grosjean: “It was a bit of a scary moment…”

Romain Grosjean’s popular third place in Spa was the first podium earned by the Frenchman and his Lotus team since the 2013 US GP.

The result also came three years after his infamous first lap crash at Spa.

I remember Austin,” he said today. “A long time ago, but I still remember I was a bit drunk at the press conference! A little bit too much champagne on the podium with Seb. It has been up and down here for me. Of course Spa 2012 with Lewis was a bit of a tough time, but on the other side it’s helped me because who I am today and being able to be on the podium with how we are during the weekend shows how strong our guys, and how strong we’re capable of building a car and be there. It was a great race, I enjoyed every minute and if we can do it again, let’s go.”

Although he ultimately earned it after Sebastian Vettel had a puncture right in front of him Grosjean had been pushing the German hard in the closing laps.

I was really closing the gap on Seb,” he explained. “It’s very unfortunate he had that puncture and it was a bit of a scary moment just being behind. I think we got everything we could get today, starting from P4 on the grid I’m sure we would have had a much easier race but it was really good fun. All the overtaking into Turn Five, I was really taking it as hard as I could on brake. Probably one of my best races ever.”

Like several of his rivals Grosjean pitted under the Virtual Safety Car.

I went through Eau Rouge on that lap and they just told me on the radio ‘safety car window is open’ and I did finish the lap, and ‘safety car’ came up on the steering wheel and we pitted as planned. We needed to fit the prime tyre for the end of the race. I think then I lost a position to Seb, they stayed on the one-stop strategy which was quite aggressive and we didn’t think we’d be able to do it. I knew the safety car window was open, and if the safety car, the virtual safety car, was lasting long enough for me to rejoin the pit or get in the pit before it ended, it was the strategy for me to stop.”

Grosjean said that he didn’t get extra motivation from the situation surrounding Lotus.

I think, as a racing driver in general, every time we start a race the idea is to try to win it. You know what you have in your hands and you know that sometimes it is not possible but as long as you do everything with 100 per cent of your performance you can fly home in the evening being proud of what you did. That’s what I want to achieve.

Sometimes there’s been times in the past year where you score one point or two points and it has been an incredible performance, probably you can’t see it on TV because it’s hidden by the fact that the car is not as good – but every time I just in the car it’s to give my best. It’s cost me a little bit in the past but putting things in the right order makes it good today.”

Regarding the next race he said: “I think Monza is a big difference in a way that there are special aero packages for Monza and it’s one race out of 19 where it’s always difficult to know exactly what’s going to be there. I’m sure in term of pole everything is going to be under control. Hopefully is working as well as it is today but I think right now I’m just thinking about having a good drink tonight!”

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Christian Horner: Red Bull waiting for answers from Renault on 2016

Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner insists that he is still waiting to find out what Renault’s plans are for 2016 and beyond, despite strong suggestions that RBR has already made the first move to end its relationship with the French manufacturer.

Paddock sources have indicated that Red Bull has sent a formal notice of termination to Renault, a move that would seem to indicate that the management is confident that it already has an alternative deal lined up with Mercedes.

The issue is further complicated by the necessity to sort out an alternative supply for Toro Rosso as well.

“All I can tell you is that we’ve got a contract with Renault that goes to the conclusion of 2016, and that’s our situation,” said Horner today. “We’re waiting to hear what Renault’s plans and commitments are longer term, and I guess once we understand that then we’ll be able to make decisions accordingly regarding our future.”

Horner would not elaborate on suggestions that Renault has not met performance clauses in its contract with RBR, and that gives the team a way to get out of the deal.

“The contents of any agreement between the parties are confidential, but as is standard in any competitive contract, or supply contract, there’s obligation from both sides. Those obligations are quite clear between the two parties.”

He insisted that the potential status of Lotus as a works team, when RBR has previously been announced in that role, was not necessarily the key issue.

“Not really. We just want to know what Renault’s commitment is. Whatever they do, they need to have a competitive engine, unless they stop. For us, we just want to understand what the position of Renault is. We’ve enjoyed some very competitive years with Renault, we’ve won eight World Championships together, 50 Grands Prix, and let’s see what the future holds.

“Renault had four teams last year. Lotus left because they didn’t want to be with Renault, and the other team went bust. So we ended up as two teams by default. Renault have run with four teams previously, so the bottom line is the product has got to be competitive, whether it’s one two or four teams.”

Horner acknowledged that the team needs to know sooner rather than later what power unit it will be running next year.

“Of course an engine is an integral part of the car, and as the concept is being born you want the engine to be a part of that. You also have situations like Ross Brawn had in 2009, when he probably didn’t find out until November or December what engine he was going to have for that season. And then of course compromises inevitably have to be made.

“It’s not something that we’ve given a huge amount of thought to at the moment, because we do have an agreement with Renault until the end of next year, and our assumption at the moment is that we will have a Renault engine in the car next year.”

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