McLaren in no hurry to confirm drivers, says Boullier

Eric Boullier says that McLaren is in no hurry to confirm its future line-up because the team is planning for the long term, and thus clearly wants to get it right.

Despite Jenson Button’s close relationship with Honda neither of the current drivers is guaranteed a race seat for next year, and the Japanese manufacturer wants the strongest line-up it can get – and is willing to pay to have a superstar in the car.

While Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel all have ongoing contracts in 2015, their names continue to be linked with McLaren, although clearly they would need to be convinced that the Honda package is potentially stronger than what their current teams could provide after winter power unit updates. Any sensible team boss will also be looking closely at the likes of Valterri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo.

In the past McLaren has of course signed and announced drivers a year in advance, as with Juan Pablo Montoya and Alonso himself, so it would not be unprecedented for a star name to be confirmed for 2016 while staying put for next season. Meanwhile Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen have to wait.

“It’s true that we are working on the strategy for the driver line-up for the next years,” said Boullier. “For me it’s important to say years because we’re looking at three years and maybe five years, and it’s true that with Ron being back since January and me new into the team we have obviously asked for a little bit more time than necessary, but we can afford this time, even if it’s uncomfortable for the drivers, which I understand. But we have to put our priorities.”

Regarding the form of Button and Magnussen this year he said: “To be honest they have performed better than we could have expected. First of all we didn’t give them a good enough car, and obviously as you know the worse a car is, the more difficult it is to drive it. I think we’re trying now to bring some performance as fast as we can.

“In terms of driving both drivers did a very good job. Kevin had a podium in the first race, obviously he went through a few experiences, which is part of the learning process. In the case of Jenson he’s obviously a professional and he delivered everything he could out of the car.”

Meanwhile third drivers and GP2 star Stoffel Vandoorne, who says that he is ready for F1, is also waiting in the wings.

“I think it’s a little bit too early to take a decision,” said Boullier when asked about the Belgian’s future. “If you have to go to F1, first he needs to feel ready, and I’m happy he thinks he’s ready. Second we need to have the opportunity to step into F1, and not at any condition I guess. We are now accessing all the scenarios. I think GP2 is one of them, because he obviously he still has to learn more in GP2 and get more wins and fight for the championship.

“He’s doing a good job for the first year, and you can see a very clear progress since a few races. He’s very, very dedicated and I’m happy to see that he’s getting there. But it’s too early to have any plans. So far all plans are open.”

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Ecclestone confirms Greece in frame for F1 event

Greek F1 Track Plan

Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that he’s still considering a street race in Greece, despite the troubled economic state of the country.

The proposed race, which would be backed by private funding and run by promoter Dielpis, has been in the planning stages for some time – as far back as 2009 – although little has been heard recently. It might be given the Mediterranean GP name, which has been trademarked by FOM.

“The Greeks are keen,” Ecclestone told CNN. “They want me to go and see the Prime Minister or the mayor. We will have to find out if they have got any money.”

The venue is the Keratsini-Drapetsona municipality, some six miles to the west of Athens. Track architect Athanasios Papatheodorou said: “The Prime Minister himself has supported fully the initiative for organising F1 races and is looking forward to the instruction from the relevant international federations to realise the Dielpis F1 project.

“The greatest benefit for our country would be giving to the world the opportunity to see the most historical port of the Mediterranean sea. And our experience at organising big events, such as the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, is a big credential for us.”

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Verstappen has first F1 run in RB7 at Rockingham

Max Verstappen has had his first F1 outing today at Rockingham – still some 35 days short of his 17th birthday.

The Dutchman drove the Red Bull RB7 demo car, with which he will make his first public appearance at the Rotterdam street event this weekend. The car will be in Toro Rosso rather than Red Bull livery in Holland, and today’s run was mainly to get him familiar with the controls.

Verstappen has to complete 300kms of proper F1 running in order to get a superlicence that will allow him to do FP1 sessions in the current car at the end of the season.

 

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Ricciardo’s confidence is sky high, says Horner

Christian Horner says that Daniel Ricciardo continues to surprise Red Bull with his form, even after he proved in Canada that he could win races.

Although Sebastian Vettel was ahead in qualifying in Belgium Ricciardo once again outperformed the German on his way to a third win of 2014.

“In all honesty we never thought he would be as strong as he has been,” said Horner. “We knew he was fast, we knew he was a very good racing driver. But I don’t think any of us, not even Daniel, realised just how good he was going to be. And of course his confidence is sky high. He’s come in, he has no pressure, and he’s driving beautifully at the moment. He’s very economical with the car, with the tyres, and his pace is extremely good.

“I think he’s doing a phenomenal job, and he deserved the victory today. Everything we’ve seen of him, I think he’s incredibly calm and incredibly in control. I think he’s obviously marking himself out as a clear championship contender.”

Asked by this writer for his thoughts on Vettel’s ongoing struggles, Horner defended the German.

“A lot of things have gone wrong for him, even this weekend, a spark plug failure on Friday robbed him of a lot of time, so he has to take information from the other car, and we know their styles are quite different. Of course we need to check whether something’s actually broken on the car, because that was extremely unusual, what we saw.

“Sebastian has got the best feeling for these tyres, as history as shown. But we have to look into today, obviously there’s something wrong, that he wasn’t able to have the same pace as Daniel today and be harder on the tyre. Obviously we missed out on Friday and running of any real benefit to Seb. Of course we need to check whether something is broken on the car.

“We went for an aggressive strategy at the penultimate stop with Seb, which in hindsight… We were effectively racing Bottas, we’d been undercut by Raikkonen, so we pitted to cover Bottas. Bottas obviously stayed out and was able to pass Seb anyway, and at that point you think well we’re dropping back to the cars behind, so we elected to pit again, which gave Seb a bit of work to do in the lasts tint, but he drove fantastically over the last few lines to recover the positions.”

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Mercedes has to tread a narrow line, says Alonso

Fernando Alonso is sympathetic towards the plight of Mercedes as the team tries to juggle the interests of both drivers while trying to allow them to put on a show for the public.

The Spaniard agreed that it was difficult for a team to get it right all the time.

“I don’t know exactly the situation, so it’s difficult to talk for another team,” said Alonso. “They’ve been racing fantastically well all through the season and we’ve been saying how good they were fighting and how good the team was letting them fight, Bahrain for example was a fantastic fight and fantastic race that everyone enjoyed.

“Now it’s true that maybe they touched a little bit today and there will be some talks about this. It’s difficult, if one team lets the drivers fight, until they don’t touch, it’s fantastic, when they touch that team are not any more good. It’s a very narrow line to try to make everyone happy. They’re leading the championships, both championships, with big margins, so they are doing something good. Apart from the problems they can have, they are dominating everything. As I said from outside it’s difficult to judge any other team.”

Meanwhile Alonso doesn’t believe that Daniel Ricciardo is potentially in the title fight, despite his run of good results: “I don’t think so. Obviously he’s doing an amazing job, he’s surprising everyone, but the Mercedes advantage – yesterday 2s in front of everybody else, before or later when they finish the race they will keep increasing their advantage. If one of the rest can do [anything], at the moment it’s only Ricciardo. So we’ll see.”

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VIDEO – First onboard lap of Sochi with Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel drove an Infiniti road car around Sochi today, and here is a video of his lap.

The German clearly likes the venue, judging by his smile: “It is great to be back in Sochi and the venue has been transformed since I was last here when it was really just a construction site. Having driven the full circuit for the first time in the Infiniti Q50 today, it’s an interesting layout with a good mix of high speed corners and technical sections. It’s going to be a huge challenge in a Formula One car for sure and I’m really looking forward to coming back in October.”

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VIDEO – Nico Rosberg responds: “I prefer to just keep it internal…”

Nico Rosberg has responded via his video blog to the comments of Lewis Hamilton – by not responding.

“Definitely one of the more difficult video blogs today, the Spa race,” he said. “I’ve been told what Lewis said in the press, and the way he has stated his version of the events. All I can say is my view of the events are very different. But the thing is it’s just better that I don’t know give all the details of my opinion and things like that. I hope you respect that. I prefer to just keep it internal, you know.

“We had a very good discussion, an important discussion. When such things occur we must sit down and review them, and that’s what we did, and everybody gave his opinion, and now we need to move forward. There will be another discussion, for sure, because we need to see if we need to change our approach in the future, as we did in Hungary, and we will do that. The good thing is that we really have a great leadership in the team with Paddy and Toto, with the help of Niki, and that really is important in such situations. Therefore I’m confident that as always, we’re going to find back to our way, and then keep on fighting in Monza. On we go.”

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