Category Archives: Grand Prix News

Toto Wolff: “The best Nico Rosberg I have ever seen…”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Nico Rosberg’s drive to victory in Singapore was the best the German has produced so far.

Rosberg took pole, left Lewis Hamilton far behind in the race, and then held on to defeat a charging Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps.

“I’ve known Nico since 2013 and that is the best Nico Rosberg I have ever seen throughout a weekend since then,” said Wolff.

“We have the tendency of saying that Lewis has an awesome pace, and this is what we have seen with Nico this weekend – he was just blindingly fast. He was sixth tenths quicker than P2 in qualifying in Singapore – something we are not used to seeing at all here.

“And in the same way he drove the race. He had a great start, controlled the pace and on the contrary, Lewis didn’t have a clean weekend, he was lacking laps in order to find the right set-up so he couldn’t really choose the direction and from then on went backwards.

“Spa wasn’t a real good opportunity for him because of the engine penalty and here it just started on the wrong foot. And he couldn’t recover. In Singapore if you are lacking laps in free practice and lacking direction on where to take the set-up, it is a vicious circle and confidence is key around Singapore and if your team mate gets out of the block in the way Nico did this weekend it becomes very difficult. Lewis is the first one to acknowledge that.

Regarding the change of momentum in the title battle he said: “We have the tendency of talking one up and the other one down. We have had this since three years, since the two of them have been fighting for the championship, you have seen those waves.

“I remember talking about Lewis’ momentum a couple of weeks ago and suddenly we have this mega Nico weekend, and in two weeks we will see if that changes or stays the same in Malaysia.”

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Daniel Ricciardo: “I felt I did all I could…”

Daniel Ricciardo sad that he could have done no more after he closed to within half a second of winner Nico Rosberg at the end of the Singapore GP.

The Australian fell more than 25 seconds behind when he pitted for fresh rubber with 14 laps to go, and he immediately began taking huge chunks out of Rosberg’s lead, but he only managed to get on the German’s gearbox right at the end of the last lap.

I’m sitting here pretty happy because I felt I did all I could,” said Ricciardo. “The perfect race. If there was anything that could have been more perfect it was the start, but Nico got off the line well. So, even with an amazing start we wouldn’t have got the jump. It looked like his was near-perfect. From that point we just tried to do what we could.

The team put me on a three-stop at the end. It was fun. It was good to push the whole race and I knew I would get close to Nico at the end. So even if the track’s difficult to overtake, it was nice to be able to push to the last lap and know that I was at least putting some pressure on him and giving the crowd still a little bit of hope.”

Although Singapore was seen as the team’s best hope Ricciardo hasn’t ruled out a Red Bull win in 2016.

With some rain, yeah. I think in dry circumstances this was our best shot. We got within half a second but after the race I said on the radio to the team that we will win this year. We’ll get a downpour somewhere and that’ll hopefully throw a few curve balls and we can middle it and get the victory we’re after.”

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Eric Boullier: “Our focus is on trying to beat Toro Rosso”

McLaren boss Eric Boullier admits that McLaren’s main focus in the Singapore race will be on outscoring Toro Rosso, the team’s rival for sixth place in the World Championship.

Sixth would represent respectable progress for McLaren since last year, as well as having obvious financial implications.

McLaren’s improving form and some bad weekends for Toro Rosso allowed the Woking team to move ahead after Spa, with an advantage of 48 to 45 points. However in Singapore Toro Rosso has bounced back and earned sixth and seventh on the grid, while the McLarens will start ninth and 12th.

“Obviously our focus is on trying to beat Toro Rosso and keep increasing our lead on them in the championship,” said. “They are in front of us, we kind of guess they did a better job for this track layout. I think it’s just a one-off to be honest, but we will do our best tomorrow, and at least have a good start.”

Boullier is confident that McLaren can claw back some points.

“We may expect a bit of tension in the first two rows, and you never know. Maybe with a better strategy we can definitely beat one of them, because they can’t double pit their cars under safety car, for example. So there is plenty of opportunity to not lose points on them, and if possible to keep our lead.”

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Christian Horner: “I think we’ve got all options open…”

Christian Horner admits that Daniel Ricciardo’s second place on the Singapore grid is a bonus after Red Bull banked on securing third and fourth places behind the Mercedes duo

A bad final lap for Lewis Hamilton and a superb one for Ricciardo combined to get the Aussie onto the front row.

Both Ricciardo and team mate Max Verstappen in fourth will be starting on the supersoft, having used it in Q2, making the grid position even more significant.

“Absolutely,” Horner told this writer when asked if third had been the realistic target. “Daniel produced a fantastic second lap, particularly sectors two and three. Quite tricky to string all three together and get the most out of the ultrasoft tyre.

“He nailed it on that second run, so a great performance by him. Rosberg’s first lap was remarkable, he couldn’t get anywhere near that on his second one, which was quite interesting. I think these tyres are so sensitive if you get the right sweet spot, the lap times comes relatively easily.”

The choice of supersofts for the start opens up all sorts of strategic scenarios for the race. Both drivers have new examples of each tyre left for Sunday, including the soft.

“I think the only way we are going to beat them is to do something different. Let’s see what happens. You never know with safety cars, and that kind of thing. Let’s get into the race and go from there.”

Asked if the main target was to guarantee a two-stop rather than three-stop race Horner said: “I think you’ve got to be flexible. With safety cars here you’ve got to plan for all occasions. They were comfortable on both tyres to be honest, so no issues, and we’ve still got plenty of tyres. I think we’ve got all options open, which is good, because not all the teams have that. It’s going to be an interesting race.”

Horner is not concerned about having both cars on the dirty side of the grid.

“I think there are so many support races earlier in the day that it will clean things up. We’ve started there the last couple of years as well. Hopefully we can get a decent run into the first turn, and get our heads down from there.”

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Team bosses open to F1 share acquisition

Team bosses are open to the possibility of accepting Liberty Media’s invitation to acquire shares in the F1 business.

Last week F1’s new owner indicated that it is willing to allow the teams to acquire a stake, although the company did not give any more details on how that process might unfold, or what the timing would be. Until now only Ferrari has held a minority stake.

“I think it’s a sensible thing,” said Red Bull’s Christian Horner. “I think the teams are key stakeholders in F1, without the teams there is no F1. For the teams to take a minority shareholding would make sense, to be offered to all the teams on the same terms would make total sense. I think to keep it for a minority shareholding the teams would be the right thing, because anything beyond that, we’re never going to agree upon. But obviously it does make sense for the teams to be a participant in the shareholding.”

“The idea sounds good,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “If you are able to align the major stakeholders with a long term vision, and you make the teams shareholders, there are many problems you could solve. But obviously it’s a commercial and financial decision, and the devil lies in the detail.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul. “A lot of value has been derived for the existing shareholders from F1. I think it will be a great thing if F1 teams were able to capture some of that value given the risks that are taken by the different parties who finance the team. So yeah, if it makes sense, I would say clearly why not?”

“Why not?,” said Sauber’s Monisha Kalternborn. “We’ve had these kinds of discussions before. I think it’s an interesting idea. It can make sense to have all times actually given this opportunity and be represented as well. At the end of the day it depends what you get and what the price is.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “I’m told it wasn’t driver error…”

Lewis Hamilton says he was not responsible for his poor start in Monza, despite a radio message to the team during the race in which he accepted blame.

At the Mercedes post-race debrief Hamilton was told by his engineers that it wasn’t his fault, and that the clutch was responsible.

“I’m told it wasn’t driver error, I’m told it wasn’t anyone’s error,” he said. “We continue to have an inconsistency with our clutch. You’ve seen it with Nico in Hockenheim. It’s bit me quite a lot this year. I was told the procedure was done exactly how I was supposed to do it, but unfortunately we just over delivery of torque, and the wheels were just spinning from the get-go.”

Hamilton said the team has worked extensively on the clutch this season.

“Of course, we never stop improving and learning. Today we would have learned again. But yeah, this year has been a harder year for us with out clutch. They’ll be working very hard. It’s not a quick fix, something you can change for the next race. We have made improvements, so we have seen more consistent, better starts, but we are still caught out by the random variation that we have from one weekend to the other. We do practice starts all weekend, and they’re varying a little bit, and then we get a drastic variation on the grip.

“As I said you’ve seen it with Nico, you’ve seen it with me, quite a few times. It is something that we need to work on. I can assure you on Tuesday [in the factory] that’s the only thing we’ll be talking about, because everything else we’re doing really well. So we’ll be trying to work and give as much information, learn as much as we can, if there’s any more, to try and make sure in the next six or seven races… We’re not struggling with pole positions, it’s just getting off the line.”

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Verstappen “learning all the time,” says Horner

Christian Horner says Max Verstappen is comfortable with the outcome of Friday morning’s informal discussion with Charlie Whiting about his defensive moves in Spa.

The Dutchman, who viewed TV footage of Spa with Whiting, has said little about what transpired, although Whiting has indicated that he could have been given a black and white warning flag.

“I think he’s happy with where he’s at, what he’s seen,” said Horner. He’s only 18, he’s in his third year of car racing, and he’s learning all the time. He hasn’t picked up a single penalty yet. We only deal with facts, not ifs and buts.”

Horner suggested that Verstappen was frustrated because Raikkonen had delayed handing back the place after he’d gone off track the previous lap.

“What I hadn’t appreciated was there was a bit going on the previous lap as well, where he was expecting the place to be given back earlier [by Raikkonen], and of course that all contributes to the robust defence.”

Meanwhile Horner concedes that this weekend in Monza will be about damage limitation for Red Bull.

“We expected coming here that of all the tracks on the calendar it was probably going to be our biggest challenge. It’s actually been a respectable Friday, we’ve got data from all three compounds, so plenty to look at tonight. Let’s see tomorrow. I’d say we’re about where we expected to be at the moment.

“The likelihood is that Mercedes and Ferrari will be ahead here, so we obviously have to try and limit the damage. That is what this weekend is all about before some circuits come up that hopefully suit us a bit better.”

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