McLaren still pushing for 2016 results, says Boullier

McLaren boss Eric Boullier says that the team is not letting up in its quest to make further progress over the rest of 2016, adding that anything learned will pay off next year, despite the rule changes.

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button showed improved form in the races before the summer break, regularly making Q3 and recording top 10 finishes.

The whole team has had a well-deserved break after the gruelling schedule of 12 races since the start of the season,” said Boullier. “We are now just over halfway through, and ready to fight again to achieve our end-of-season goals.

The midfield pack is particularly close, and each team is stronger on different circuits, so there’ll be no let-up in in how hard we push or the developments we bring to the car in our bid to continue our progress through the rest of the season and into next year.

Together, McLaren-Honda is continuing to push hard, and everything we bring to the car – be it on the chassis or power unit side – is valuable learning for next year. We’ve enjoyed a couple of weeks away from Formula 1, but our ambition is as strong as ever, and we’re definitely ready to go racing again.”

Meanwhile Honda F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa expects the Japanese manufacturer to continue to make progress.

Though the long and power-hungry nature of Spa won’t suit us, our target for the remainder of the season is clear: to aim for championship points and take further steps forward with each race. We hope that we can continue our positive momentum that we had before the summer shutdown and look to another strong weekend in Spa.”

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Wolff confident that Mercedes drivers have learned lesson

Toto Wolff says that Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton won’t come under extra pressure to avoid trouble on the first lap today just because Hockenheim is the home race for Mercedes.

Despite the presence of executives and guests the team boss insisted that it would be just enough a race.

“Because everything is televised to millions of people almost every race is the same,” said Wolff. “It doesn’t get much worse than in Barcelona, where the board was present, and we had to answer the question after 60 seconds what are we doing now for the next 90 minutes? So I wouldn’t say there is extra pressure. It’s pretty much the same everywhere.”

Wolff said he was sure his drivers would continue to behave themselves.

“I’m very confident, because we’ve talked about it a lot, what the consequence would be. And that hasn’t changed. But as a driver it’s clear that they wouldn’t want to make a statement before the race that they are aware that they shouldn’t be crashing, that would be giving too much away. They are aware.

“Those guidelines are designed to prevent incidents that cost us points. We haven’t had any incidents since then [Spain]. So whatever the behaviour is or the pattern is during the build-up to the race weekend, it doesn’t really matter. It’s important that on a Sunday those rules are being followed. Silverstone was pretty straightforward and Hungary was pretty straightforward, so I have positive indications that the message has arrived.”

Rosberg said he is expecting a busy first lap: “It goes all the way to Turn Two, Turn Six, the battle. The thing is that you have got a short run to Turn One only, so that will make it quite different, and the asphalt is old, which means that second place is at I think a bigger disadvantage. So some things in my favour for sure. Let’s see.”

Meanwhile Hamilton said that despite it being easier to pass at Hockenheim than in the last race in Hungary the first lap would still be critical.

“You have to take measured risks at every start anyway, so that doesn’t change,” said the World Champion. “And ultimately you want to get by, whether it’s Turn One or Turn Two, or at some point. It is an easier track to overtake, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier to be close to Nico and be in a position to overtake. But there is more opportunity than there was at the last race, for sure.”

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Track limits freedom requires rule change, says Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone says that track limits could not be properly freed up this weekend because the Strategy Group didn’t actually vote on the subject, and a rule change would have to go through proper procedures.

The Strategy Group discussed the subject after Ecclestone put curbs on the agenda, and it was agreed in principle to relaxing track limits. Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene was particular supportive, believing that cars going wide added to the show.

However at Hockenheim Charlie Whiting has resisted the push for a relaxation and imposed strict track limits at Turn One. He decided overnight to allow drivers a little extra leeway there from FP3 onwards, while keeping a limit in place.

Arrivabene, Toto Wolff and Christian Horner lobbied Ecclestone on the subject last night, and the last two met with him again this morning. However Bernie acknowledges what what was agreed in the Strategy Group did not go through the full process.

“What was decided was we’d give it a go and then afterwards evaluate,” Ecclestone told this writer. “Charlie sort of feels that we should stick more to the rules. There are rules that say where you can and where you can’t drive.

“It was me that put it in the agenda for the Strategy Group – the public don’t understand this and don’t care. But in the mean time we have got rules, and we need to stick to them.

“Although it was discussed in the Strategy Group and it was more or less unanimously accepted, we couldn’t do it because the Strategy Group didn’t actually vote. If they had voted it would have had to go to the F1 Commission to get approval. So it really couldn’t happen. We have to do it properly. We need to write a regulation, and vote on the regulation.”

Ecclestone denied that the saga had created some tension between the FIA on one side and and the teams and himself on the other.

“No, not really. It’s just a little bit frustrating because they think what the hell difference will it make? But when you let that go through then it’s what the hell difference will it make to something else?

“In the end it’s the stewards who make the decisions. If by chance people cross the white line, what happens? It’s the stewards who decided if they are reprimanded or not. I think the stewards look upon this as, perhaps if they don’t get an advantage, it’s not terrible. If they get an advantage, for sure they take their times away. If someone goes off because they haven’t got any choice, if they had to miss another car if you like to avoid an accident, I think the stewards will look at it and say it’s the right thing to do.”

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Postponing Halo is the correct call, says Horner

Christian Horner insists that the F1 Strategy Group has done the right thing by postponing the introduction of the Halo to allow for more research and development.

He says that the sport had to get it right first time, especially as any solution will also be used in other categories.

“We’ve agreed for a system to come in in ‘18, but the system needs to be fully researched, fully developed, fully tested,”  said Horner. “And at the moment other than a couple of install laps from a couple of drivers, there’s been no mileage put on this. We’re testing tyres for miles and miles before they’re introduced next year. The same has to go with a safety component in order to ensure that we haven’t introduced a risk that wasn’t previously there as well. I think the right things being done.

“The analysis, the research the development of the system is going to be really ramped up over the next 12 months to ensure that when it is introduced, it’s introduced properly, and not just for F1, across the different categories. Because this has a knock-on effect all the way down to entry level at F4 or Formula Renault. It’s important we get this right.”

Horner doesn’t expect a ‘revolt’ from the drivers over the Halo issue.

“I’d be surprised. A couple of drivers who have driven with the system haven’t been entirely happy with it either, and they’ve only done an installation lap. So it’s not been tested, it’s not been fully proven at variants of different circuits. Of course the objective is to improve the safety for the drivers, but to do it in way that doesn’t introduce any unforeseen aspects that could interfere with that. So I think the logical and sensible thing is being done – further testing, further development to get it on all the drivers’ cars.”

He also made it clear that timing had become a problem in terms of teams being a long way down the line with car development.

“The big issue for next year is that many teams – not ourselves but many of the smaller teams – have to freeze their chassis designs at the end of this month. We’re already late for them with a big regulation change. For this to be delayed for another month or another six weeks, will serious compromise them for next year’s championship.”

Asked about the implications of a serious accident in 2017 where the Halo could have helped he said: “It’s very difficult. There are always, ‘what ifs’? What if it was introduced and it created an accident, or a driver couldn’t get out of the car, or a piece of material was deflected into the driver? There are so many what ifs.

“This system is an interesting one, and it just needs further development to ensure that when it is introduced it provides the safety that the drivers are looking for, and of course all the teams are looking for their drivers.”

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Halo on hold but still a “strong option” for 2018, says FIA

The F1 Strategy Group has today voted to not introduce the Halo in 2017, despite a strong case for it from the FIA, and the majority support of the drivers.

The Strategy Group, which is compromised of Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt, Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Force India, decided that the device needs more work.

It remains to be seen whether the FIA decides to try and force it through on safety grounds, which is technically possible, although sources have suggested that Todt will not do that.

An FIA statement said: “The Strategy Group agreed unanimously that the 2018 season will see the introduction of frontal cockpit protection for Formula One cars in order to significantly enhance the safety of drivers.

It was decided that owing to the relatively short timeframe until the commencement of the 2017 Formula One season it would be prudent to use the remainder of this year and early next year to further evaluate the full potential of all options before final confirmation.

This will include undertaking multiple on-track tests of the ‘Halo’ system in practice sessions during the rest of this season and during the first part of the 2017 season.

While the Halo is currently the preferred option, as it provides the broadest solution to date, the consensus among the Strategy Group was that another year of development could result in an even more complete solution. Halo remains a strong option for introduction in 2018.”

Red Bull’s Christian Horner, who had backed the Aeroscreen alternative that has been tested and rejected by the FIA, said last weekend that it was too early.

We’re really waiting to hear from the FIA and at the next Strategy Group there will be some discussion,” he told this writer. “As a team we’re not fans of the Halo system. I think it’s an inelegant solution, and I’m not so sure it is a complete solution. Rather than do half a job it’s better to take a bit more time and do it properly.

I think something has to be done, but rushing it through isn’t the right thing. You look at a MotoGP rider, they are far more exposed than an F1 driver, and you look at the steps that have been made in F1, it’s been astronomic over the last couple of decades. I think we’re on the right trajectory.

I just think this concept needs further investigation and research and development. For us for ‘17 it’s already last minute, because it obviously has an impact on aerodynamic performance etc. We also don’t know what effect it’s going to have at tracks with big undulations.”

The issue that the technology exists and the sport may now face is that if there is a serious accident in 2017 where the Halo could have protected a driver legal repercussions may follow.

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Ferrari confirms Allison departure

Ferrari has confirmed that James Allison is to leave the team, following weeks of speculation about the Englishman’s future.

Allison and the Maranello team have “jointly decided to part ways,” according to a Ferrari statement. Following the tragic death of his wife in March Allison had indicated his preference to return to the UK.

Mattia Binotto, the head of the power unit department, will take on the role of Chief Technical Officer.

“The team would like to thank James for his commitment and sacrifice during the time spent together,” said Maurizio Arrivabene. “And wishes him success and serenity for his future endeavours.”

Allison said: “During the years I spent at Ferrari, at two different stages and covering different roles, I could get to know and appreciate the value of the team and of the people, women and men, which are part of it. I want to thank them all for the great professional and human experience we shared. I wish everybody a happy future with lots of success.”

The 46-year-old Binotto is a Ferrari veteran, having joined the team in 1995, and progressed through the ranks of the engine department.

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Hamilton wants clarity on yellow flag rules

After losing pole to team mate Nico Rosberg in Hungary a frustrated Lewis Hamilton has called for the FIA to clarify to what extent drivers are expected to slow down for yellow flags, and in particular double waved yellows.

Rosberg took pole despite passing through a double yellow zone on that lap, albeit just as spinner Fernando Alonso had got under way again. Rosberg lifted when he saw the yellows, but only lost a minimal amount of time, and has since been exonerated after an FIA investigation.

Hamilton had passed the scene moments earlier, when Alonso’s car was still stationary, and had to abort his lap.

“It just needs to be clarified now,” said Hamilton. “Us drivers need to understand the yellow flag situation, because obviously in the way that it’s written is potentially not the way it’s interpreted, either by the stewards or the drivers. So more clarification would be good. For me there was no question I had to lift, because Fernando was on the track. Perhaps for Nico, Fernando had cleared, but there were still flags, so it was a different scenario.”

Hamilton was keen to point out that double yellows mean be prepared to stop: “When it’s a yellow flag it says you have to be prepared to slow down, or you have to slow down, and lose some time. If it’s a double yellow – there could be a car on the track, there could be a steward on the track, you don’t know what’s around the corner – you have to be prepared to stop, that’s what it says.

“Nico only lost a tenth through the corner, so if that’s what we’re really allowed to do in the future, even though you lift and approach the corner with due care, if that’s allowed on double yellow… Because I thought that was the case on a single yellow, but maybe on a double, I thought you had to pay more caution to it. So if it’s only a tenth that you have to lose, that’s now different for all us drivers, we have to approach it potentially differently.

“But I’m not sure that’s the safest approach. We’ve instances in the past – I seem to remember Maldonado nearly hit a marshal in Monaco one time, because he hadn’t slowed down enough, and there was a marshal on the track. It’s really to make sure that it’s very, very clear to us. It’s not particularly our safety, it’s if there’s a car, a driver on the track, or a marshal.”

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