“The engine unfreeze is not a silver bullet,” says Ferrari boss

Ferrari boss Marco Mattiacci is adamant that F1 needs an engine ‘unfreeze’ in 2015 – and that it is a matter of principle in that the sport should be about innovation.

He also admitted that there was no guarantee that it would change the pecking order.

Mattiacci was quizzed re the unlikelihood of Mercedes changing its mind and supporting an unfreeze at the next F1 Commission meeting.

“In life is it important to try,” he said. “We are trying to do our best because we have a strong belief that innovation is at the base of the success of F1. We’re a company that produces the pinnacle of engineering, so I think it is important that innovation is at the centre of this F1. I cannot go back to my fans and say I cannot perform better in the engine, I need to wait one year. I don’t think it is a fair answer. We absolutely stick to the principles of these new regulations. We’re not asking to change, we’re asking for a fine tuning, applying the same principle.

“If we win, if it may be possible, otherwise, that’s it. Let’s arrive to the F1 Commission, then we’ll see the consequences. One step at a time.”

Questioned on the possibility of costs rising he said: “I think honestly from our point of view there is not a cost increase, and again the other argument maybe today if I had the possibility to upgrade my engines, maybe the teams I supply would have scored points, and would have extra revenues. For a small team not to have the possibility to catch up is much more dramatic than for a big team.

“I have always said the engine unfreeze is not a silver bullet, that I’m going to catch up with Mercedes. Again it’s a principle, sometimes you fight for a principle. I think the F1 I grew up [with] is about innovation and catching up with the best. We are working in order that aside of the engine unfreeze upgrade, we are working very hard to catch up, but that’s a principle we are working on.”

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Pirelli compound choice for Brazil is “very dangerous,” says Massa

Drivers have expressed concerns about Pirelli’s choice of medium and hard tyres for Interlagos, with the feeling being that they won’t provide enough grip.

“If you see the choices for the next races, they are a little bit strange,” said Fernando Alonso. “To have the medium and the hard in Brazil, is very surprising. Of course it’s their decision, we have to try to help them in any question they have.”

Felipe Massa was particularly vocal on the subject: “It’s dangerous, very dangerous. First of all Interlagos was never a track to use medium and hard, it’s a track where we can use even supersoft and soft, but in the conservative way, soft and medium. I have no idea why they chose medium and hard, this is completely unacceptable.

“It’s a track that you can have rain, it’s a track that you can be cold, it’s a track that maybe you have a condition that you need to risk by putting the dry tyres, and it’s so hard that it would be dangerous, so I don’t understand it. And they’re changing the asphalt, normally whatever track I go they change the asphalt, it gets even easier.

“I have no idea why they chose these tyres. I even spoke to the guy from Pirelli, and he said I was right.”

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Horner: Mercedes should ignore “self-interest” and back unfreeze

Christian Horner is adamant that Mercedes should back plans for an engine unfreeze for the good of the sport.

Mercedes was not able to block the proposal at the F1 Strategy Group meeting, but it can do so at the upcoming F1 Commission meeting, where unanimity is required for 2015 rule changes.

The rules already allow for quite substantial engine updates over the winter, but Merc’s rivals want to be allowed to make at least one development step during next season.

“I think for F1 it’s important,” said Horner. “We saw today Nico’s performance – the true performance is that they can drive through the field, and I think it’s too out of kilter, five Mercedes-powered cars in the top five. The immaturity of this technology is still quite raw, and I think Mercedes shouldn’t be afraid of competition. They are doing a super job but I think it’s healthy for F1 that Ferrari, Honda, Renault should have that ability to close that gap, otherwise we’re going to end up in a very stagnant position.

“I think it’s a bigger issue than just about the teams. It’s about what’s right for the sport, what’s right for the fans. It’s easy to take a self-interest position, but when you look at what is the right thing for F1, I think it’s to have competition. The rules are the rules, which they are at the moment, but I think we need to be big enough to say let’s open a little bit, be responsible on costs so there is no impact for the customer teams, but have that position.”

Horner said that the winter window was not enough: “You’ve got until February to do that, and then you’re locked down again. So it’s a very, very small window in order to achieve that. There was an agreement in Singapore, everybody voted unanimously to have one further step in the season, but that seems to have been reneged on.”

He acknowledged that given extra development options Mercedes could still do a better job.

“Quite possibly, but at least you’ve got the ability to try and improve, because at the moment you’re frozen with what you’ve got. You’re running with your hands tied behind your back. If it’s competition like it is on the chassis side, if you start off on the back foot you can develop your way out of that. I think that on the engine side it’s important that while the technology is still quite immature that responsibly – not just open carte blanche development – you should be able to have a couple of increments during the season.”

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Christian Horner: “Mercedes has done the best job this year”

Christian Horner is adamant that Red Bull will bounce back this year after Mercedes ended the team’s four-year reign as constructors’ champions with today’s one-two finish in Russia.

“We’ve had a little bit of time to get our heads round it!,” Horner joked when asked if he was disappointed. “From February in reality. In all honesty Mercedes has done the best job this year. What it does is motivate you, you know how much work goes into winning a World Championship, and to win it four times in a row is an enormous achievement.

“We’ve had a disastrous year, but we’re still second. We’re the only other team to have won a Grand Prix, and three of them at that, this year. What we’ve managed to recover from this season, and the fact that we’ve managed to take them this far into the year, I think is very much a result in itself. The power units should hopefully converge, so into next season we should be able to give them a much bigger fight.”

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Wolff doesn’t forget Brawn as Mercedes clinches title

After Mercedes clinched the World Championship in Sochi today team boss Toto Wolff paid tribute to Ross Brawn, who laid the foundations of the success after Mercedes took over Brawn GP at the end of 2009.

This was the first title for Mercedes, as there was no constructors’ championship during its previous period of domination in 1954-’55.

“It’s incredible, I have to pinch myself sometimes,” said Wolff. “We are part of the Mercedes-Benz history. We won for the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz ever, and I just feel proud, and honoured, to be part of that team. Part of a team whose foundations were built by Ross, who played such an important role in the team – the steps which were done in 2012, the people who joined us in 2012.

“We constantly ramped our game up, we made the right decisions, we got the right resources. The big boys back in Stuttgart understood what it needed, and since then we were on an upwards slope, and today is the result of all that.”

Although Daniel Ricciardo is now almost out of the drivers’ championship, and the title is set to go to one of the Mercedes duo, Wolff says the team will not change its approach and allow them to race each other harder.

“Of course 92 points means [Ricciardo] would need to win all three remaining races, and Lewis not to score eight points. Even though I’m a pessimist that would be a black swan, black swan, black swan event! I don’t think we are going to change something in our approach, because we want them to race each other respectfully, and we saw that today.

“Probably that was Nico’s corner but he missed the braking on the dirty line. Lewis was very cold blooded and good. So it will not change the approach, we don’t want it to end in some kind of circumstance or event on the track.”

Wolff stressed that any celebrations were overshadowed by thoughts of Jules Bianchi: “Of course, a colleague and a very talented young driver who I have known since the very early days in F3 and Formula Renault is fighting for his life. We’re not monsters – you have to split it, on one side we have worked so hard for that day today, but on the other side it will never take away what happened last week.”

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Mixed views from drivers on how Russian GP will play out

The consensus all weekend has been that the Russian GP will see drivers opting for a single stop, a result of the low tyre degradation see at Sochi. A cut in the pit lane speed limit for today made multiple stops even less attractive.

However today there were signs that as the pace has hotted up, tyres might be taking a little more punishment than had been anticipated, so we may yet see some drivers stopping twice. Meanwhile there are mixed views about how easy it might be to overtake, and there’s a special focus on the start. Here are the thoughts of some of the major players:

Lewis Hamilton (P1): “I think with these tyres from the long runs it looked like one-stop, quite easily. It looks like you could almost do the whole race on one set of tyres, but you have to do a stop at some point. But I heard it’s getting harder and harder for the tyres as we get faster, so it’s going to be a one-stop or two-stop tomorrow. Undoubtedly it will be a bit quicker on a one-stop, especially with the pitlane speed. Overtaking look quite hard, I watched the GP2 and it wasn’t easy to overtake, but it looked like it was a relatively good circuit for following, so I hope that will be the case tomorrow.”

Nico Rosberg (P2) : “The start is the best opportunity [to overtake] that’s for sure, but after that, because there’s no tyre degradation, it’s one stop, so overtaking is going to be difficult I think. Maybe because there’s no tyre degradation you can go long or something. If I’m quick I can play around with strategy a little bit, and bring that stop further and further away.”

Jenson Button (P4): “Looking at GP2, there was quite a lot of overtaking. If we’re all doing the same strategy it’s always more difficult. But I don’t think you’re going to see a one-stop race. Looking at the amount of laps people are putting on a set of tyres in qualifying, you’re going to be looking at more stops. It’s very easy to lock a tyre around here, especially into Turn 13, and that will change your strategy anyway. I think we’ll see overtaking. We’ll have the DRS into 13 which won’t really do a lot for us, but into Turn 1 it could be very useful. So think we’ll see some overtaking. It’s easier than somewhere like Barcelona.”

Daniel Ricciardo (P7): “If it turns into a two-stop race, it gives us more opportunities with strategy. I don’t think we have the outright speed to do a whole lot, so it would be nice. I think realistically it still one stop. There’s been a little bit of blistering with the tyres, so maybe something like that will make it a two-stop.”

Fernando Alonso (P8): “It will be a difficult race, because overtaking will be hard on this circuit. We know they are extremely hard tyres, and we can do a lot of laps on them with not big degradation, so that will probably push us to not many stops. The pit limiter changed today from 80 to 60kph, so that also will favour the minimum stops as possible. There are also some other possibilities in the race, we’ll see what we can do. The start will be crucial, because that could define more or less the race in a way. It’s the longest distance from the start to the first braking of the championship, so tomorrow the start is probably more important than ever.”

Sebastian Vettel (P10): “In terms of strategy it should be fairly straightforward. The tyres last very well, it should be a one-stop race, so it’s difficult to come up with a different strategy. Obviously we are outside of the top 10 so we have the opportunity to do something different, but then again as I said it’s limited. Overtaking I think is tricky, as the last two corners are fairly quick, it’s difficult to be close enough. We qualified around P10 because that’s as quick as we can go. It would be nice to finish on the podium tomorrow, but equally if nothing special happens, and we have consistent conditions, it will be very difficult to make a lot of progress.”

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Drivers back FIA plans to control speeds under yellows

The FIA’s plans to slow cars under yellow flag situations have met with strong support from the drivers.

Ideas were discussed with Charlie Whiting at Friday’s regular drivers’ briefing – which was also attended by Jean Todt – and a trial run could be undertaken as early as practice in Austin.

The favoured option is the use of a delta time through the yellow flag section, as already happens for the whole lap when the safety car is first dispatched. Something akin to the pit speed limiter has also been mentioned, although it would be more complicated.

“I think last week shows that definitely we have to do something,” said Sebastian Vettel. “I think we have the technology to do a lot. We basically we have to find out what is the best. If we talk about a speed limit then what sort of speed limit. Obviously what you want to do is make it as fair as possible. I’m sure we have the opportunity with the current systems and technology that we have in the car, it shouldn’t be a big problem.

“I think it’s more about finding the right compromise so that everyone is happy. Hopefully by at the latest next year we’ll find something that we are all happy with. It doesn’t hurt to introduce something like that. Obviously our prime interest is safety, and right after that is the sport, so we want to make it as fair as we can.”

“I think it’s good,” said Lewis Hamilton. “I think what’s good is that they are reacting to it, they are trying to find what’s going to be the best solution. The problem with flags is that you want to be safe, but you want to lose as little time as possible, so you’re always on a knife-edge with it. Obviously when they put the limiter on through that sector, or whatever they do, then that really does take the pressure off us.”

“The important thing is that we’re all working together to come up with the best solution,” said Jenson Button. “I don’t know what’s right or wrong right now, but the important thing is that the teams, the FIA and also the drivers are all involved. We’re united in wanting to move forward.”

“I’m definitely for that,” said Daniel Ricciardo. “If it’s the same for everyone, and it just makes it safer, we are not going to complain, we are not going to argue about it. I’m happy obviously to see that there’s action being taken.”

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