Nico Rosberg: “My opposition had a really messy start…”

Nico Rosberg says he’s just being realistic when he talks up the prospect of a Ferrari resurgence in 2016.

The German has said on several occasions recently that we have yet to see the Maranello team’s full potential after it endured a difficult start to the season.

I’m not really sounding any notes of caution,” said Rosberg. “I’m just realistic, and Ferrari, among others, just haven’t shown what they can do yet. They’ve taken each other out in the last race, for example, in the first corner and from then it was just messy, an an example. A lot of things have been going wrong and for sure they are a lot quicker than they have shown and we think they are very, very close to us.”

Rosberg played down the significance of his run of victories: “For me, it’s not six in a row because the three last year were last year and they don’t count for anything in this year’s championship, so for me it’s winning the first three, which I’m really happy about. Yes, I’ve been driving really well but my opposition had a really messy start. That’s the reality of it.

I definitely expect them all to bounce back, especially Lewis, and it’s going to be a great battle against them as always. And it will be tough, even if I have some points lead now, but it’s still such a long season. Three races is a seventh or something of the whole thing. There’s like 450 points to take still, and now I have 30-something in front, or whatever. There’s still a massively long way to go, so it’s not really changing the situation much.”

Meanwhile he denied that fighting for the championship was proving tough mentally.

I generally see it as a very pleasurable experience! Because it’s just an awesome feeling to come to a race track, to know that I have the car to be able to be on pole and win the race. I just look forward to it. So I’m here in Sochi and I can’t wait to get going and see where we are compared to our direct rivals and try to make it happen.”

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Booth joins Toro Rosso management team

Former Manor F1 team principal John Booth, who left the outfit he founded at the end of last season, has taken up a new role with Scuderia Toro Rosso.

The Englishman will work on a consultancy basis as director of racing while continuing to oversee his newly formed Manor LMP2 team.

“It is a great honour to join such a well-established and competitive team as Scuderia Toro Rosso” said Booth. “It is a team that has achieved so much in a relatively short space of time. I am looking forward to getting started and working with Franz and the team this weekend in Sochi.”

“I have known John for many years and I am delighted to welcome him to the team,” said STR’s Franz Tost. “Formula 1 is becoming ever more complex, with recent changes on the tyre front, car set-up, radio communications and so forth.

“Therefore, having a competitive car and talented drivers, both of which we have, on its own is not enough. With his vast experience I am sure John will help the team raise its game and become a more effective force over a race weekend.”

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Sirotkin lands Renault F1 role

Sergey Sirotkin has joined Renault Sport F1 as a test driver, and the Russian will drive Kevin Magnussen’s car in FP1 in Sochi on Friday.

The 20-year-old, who has extensive GP2 experience, was previously involved with Sauber.

This is a great opportunity for me, although it has all come together so quickly,” said Sirotkin. “I still can’t quite believe it. This is, however, the moment that all young racing drivers are working towards, and I am determined to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can, doing the best possible job for the team while driving in Free Practice 1.”

Sergey is one of the most promising drivers from the junior categories so it is great for us that he is joining Renault Sport,” said team boss Frederic Vasseur. “We saw that he was the most promising rookie in the GP2 Series last season, where he achieved a race win and podiums, and for 2016 he is very well placed to fight for the title. He has driven the Sochi Autodrom in a GP2 Series car previously so we have confidence in the job he will be able to do for us this weekend.”

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FIA formally approves extra Pirelli testing

The World Motor Sport Council has now formally approved rule changes to accommodate extra Pirelli testing for 2017.

Details were agreed in a meeting between the FIA, teams and Pirelli in China, and the rule modifications were then passed by votes of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission on Monday.

As expected initial testing of 2017 compounds in 2016 sizes will be conducted with 2013 or 2014 cars before the focus moves to the new 2017 sizes fitted to “current” cars – which means 2015 or ’16 chassis – with suitably modified suspension. It’s understood that seven teams have indicated an interest in taking part in these tests, which will be subsidised by Pirelli.

The FIA noted: “The further testing was deemed to be essential for the purpose of developing the new tyre sizes permitted by the 2017 F1 Technical Regulations.

“The changes will allow 25 car days of testing with current cars, fitted with 2017 tyre sizes, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“In addition, there will be an opportunity to test prototype 2017 tyres (in 2016 sizes) on 2013 or 2014 cars – these tests on older cars only apply in 2016.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The further testing was deemed to be essential for the purpose of developing the new tyre sizes permitted by the 2017 F1 Technical Regulations.

The changes will allow 25 car days of testing with current cars, fitted with 2017 tyre sizes, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In addition, there will be an opportunity to test prototype 2017 tyres (in 2016 sizes) on 2013 or 2014 cars – these tests on older cars only apply in 2016.

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Mercedes questions 2017 rule changes

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made it clear that he doesn’t support the 2017 F1 aerodynamic changes which are expected to be rubber stamped by April 30.

High downforce and wider tyres are part of a package that in theory has been agreed, but could yet be postponed given that lap times are already much faster this year. New engine rules, specifically relating to customer prices and guaranteed supplies, are also supposed to be signed off by the end of the month.

There are two weeks to go until we have our final commission and strategy group meeting in order to come up with the regulations,” said Wolff. “On the engine front we are pretty much there. We have an agreement which needs to be ratified by the stakeholders, but there are lots of benefits for most of the teams in that agreement. So I am hopeful that they will be done.

And in terms of the 2017 regulations, we voted for them and we voted for the so-called McLaren proposal a while ago. There will be discussion around it, if it is the right way forward. Of course, but I don’t think that will get the necessary majority to turn it down again and come up with something else.”

Wolff is adamant that the racing is closer this year because the rules have been stable.

You remember what we always said. Even if it is uncomfortable for the commercial rights holder [Bernie Ecclestone] that we have been running away with lots of races and the two championships, the longer you keep regulations stable the more the performance is going to converge between everybody and this is exactly what is happening now.

The engines are converging, the teams are converging, the gains we are making are smaller as the curve flattens out and the others are making bigger steps so I think we are having an ideal situation with great racing. Three great races in a row now, are we capable of reacting quick enough and acknowledging that, and reverting to regulations which seem to be okay now. I don’t know.

We are going to change it. Somebody else or us is going to run away with the championship next year because it is in the regulations, everything starts from the beginning. More downforce which you won’t see just on pure laptime, less overtaking because the wake is much more extreme. There is nothing to be sold on that. There is no selling proposition in those new regulations in my opinion. We should just leave it alone.

And maybe speaking against ourselves because clearly we don’t have the advantage we had last year, but the racing is great and will become even greater if we leave the regulations alone.”

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Wolff impressed by Hamilton’s maturity

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Lewis Hamilton’s personal development has been “mind blowing” as he has matured over the past few seasons.

In making his case Wolff cited how the World Champion reacted to the problems he experienced in qualifying in China today.

Having failed to complete a flying lap rather than express frustration Hamilton went out of way to to show his support for the Mercedes crew.

“He’s in a great place,” said Wolff when asked if we were seeing a new Lewis this year. “The development I’ve seen in him as a personality is mind blowing, over the last three years he’s been with the team. He’s won two championships and found himself, I think, as a person.

“You can imagine how much pressure he is under with all the people who criticise, and nevertheless he follows his instinct, he follows his way, and that seems to be functioning. And for the team it’s great. We have two very competitive drivers who are in good spirits and who have integrated so well in the team and give energy to the team and push the team forward.

“The Lewis I’ve seen today coming back straight into the garage after such a situation and shaking everybody’s hand, giving a little clap of support, it just leaves me with my mouth open.”

Told later of Wolff’s comments Hamilton agreed that he’s much more comfortable this year.

“Firstly that’s very warming to hear that from Toto, someone I respect highly, and who has been a real part of this journey that I’m on,” he said. “It is just a part of the growing process. Since I’ve been in F1 my friends have been ‘you don’t know who you are,’ and I guess searching for yourself… I just feel comfortable in who I am, and I’m happy. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s definitely a positive, there’s no negatives in it. I hope it can reflect in a much better result than it’s looking like at the moment this year.”

Lewis stressed that he’s focussing all his energy on the future.

“For sure my mentality is perhaps a little bit different, more relaxed. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy, I’m fighting for the World Championship, and at the moment, [Nico is] walking away with it. There’s a long, long way to go, so there’s no real need to be too stressed about it, there’s no reason to dwell on what just happened an hour ago, because there’s nothing I can do.

“All I can do is try and shape the future, and that’s really what I’m trying to put my energy towards. Zero energy to what’s behind me, 100% energy to what’s in front.”

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Massa failures triggered by brake duct

Williams faced major dramas in FP1 in China today after Felipe Massa suffered two left rear tyre failures in quick succession, the first having pitched him into a spectacular spin.

The team then sat out the remainder of the session while investigations indicated that the wheel rims had failed first, rather than the tyres themselves, as a result of contact with the brake duct. The issue was addressed over the lunch break and both cars ran without a repeat in FP2.

We had a problem with the wheel rim and we made a modification and found the problem,” said Massa. “At least everything is okay now for the car to run without problems. That is positive. But then the day was not very positive, looking that we lost the first session and we ran in the second session – and it wasn’t easy to understand the feeling with the cars and the tyres, degradation was pretty high for everybody. We have another day and I hope we can be more competitive tomorrow.

For sure you are always concerned when you see these things happen, you are always concerned. We had a problem on the wheel rims and we made a modification from one session to another session and the problem was solved, so that is important, and for sure it was not a very positive day because I lost one session.

The second session I managed to do some laps but it would have been better to do a proper day running both sessions Tomorrow maybe the conditions will change, maybe rain, but we should be ready for everything.”

Williams technical chief Pat Symonds confirmed to this writer that the brake ducts were the source of the problem: “The wheel rims failed because of the way we’d set up the whole of the back end – more brake ducts actually. It wasn’t an easy one to see what had happened but we did figure it out and fixed it. Once we realised what it was it was actually quite easy. The ducts were the same as Bahrain essentially, there was a very minor change.”

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