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Gentlemen, start your (alternative) engines as Todt and Bernie take on manufacturers

The FIA has formally announced its proposal for a low budget “client” engine to be introduced in 2017, which means that F1 could run with two different types of power unit which will somehow have to be balanced by an equivalency formula.

As previously explained it would allow teams to have a much cheaper alternative to the manufacturer supplied hybrid V6s. Although the specification has not been confirmed the FIA wants to have a 2.2-litre twin turbo V6, which in essence is similar to the current Indycar engine. The FIA is planning to launch a tender process, to which the likes of Cosworth and Ilmor could respond.

Today’s announcement is a direct result of a recent meeting between the engine manufacturers are the FIA in Geneva where the subject of a cap on supply costs to customers was discussed again, following a unanimous agreement at the last strategy group meeting that such a plan would be imposed.

However Ferrari used the veto on rule changes which was given to them by the FIA many years ago. The FIA, with the full support of Ecclestone, has used that rejection of a cut in supply costs to find a way to introduce the new engine concept. For Bernie Ecclestone one of the primary motivations is to find an engine that Red Bull could use in 2017 that has no manufacturer strings attached.

In a highly unusual move the FIA has gone public on the Ferrari veto.

The governing body said today: “The FIA, in agreement with FOM, suggested the principle of setting a maximum price for engine and gear box for client teams at the last Strategy Group meeting These measures were put to the vote and adopted with a large majority.

However, Ferrari SpA decided to go against this and exercise the right of veto long recognised under agreements governing F1. In the interest of the Championship, the FIA has decided not to legally challenge Ferrari SpA’s use of its right of veto.”

In explaining what happens next the FIA used very careful language to emphasise that this is an idea that has to go through the proper processes: “Therefore the FIA will initiate a consultation with all stakeholders regarding the possible introduction of a client engine, which will be available as of 2017. Following this consultation a call for tenders for this client engine, the cost of which would be much lower than the current power unit, could be undertaken.

Supported by FOM, the FIA will continue in its efforts to ensure the sustained long-term development of the Championship and look for solutions enabling it to achieve this. It asks all of the teams to make a positive contribution to the success of this approach through proposals and initiatives in the interest of the Championship and its continuation over the long term.”

Ecclestone is fully behind the idea and is convinced it will work.

We used to have people running turbo engine and people running normally aspirated,” he said in Austin. “It wasn’t a two-tier system. It was a choice. Whatever it is, I anticipate they will be able to continue running their engine and others running the other engine.”

Regarding equivalency he said: “Obviously it can be done, yes. Maybe we will have refuelling again for those that want it, if people have an engine that is super efficient they won’t wan to obviously. They don’t have to.”

The existing manufacturers are obviously sceptical about the idea, and it remains to be seen whether ultimately the scheme is a ploy to force them to lower the supply prices of their current engines.


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Toto Wolff: “They are enemies in the same team…”

Toto Wolff admits that the first corner clash in Austin between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will lead to a discussion with the two drivers in order to calm the situation.

The incident followed a similar one in Suzuka, where Rosberg was edged wide and lost momentum.

“Lewis came on the radio and said it wasn’t on purpose,” said Wolff when asked by this writer. “I think it’s something we are going to talk about in a couple of days, but this is a moment to celebrate a World Champion who deserves to be World Champion, and then once emotions have cooled down, we should discuss.

“It’s clear that a racing driver who has just lost a World Championship for a second time against his team mate in a tough race where certainly Turn One wasn’t very nice, and he lost it by his own mistake. I think we have to respect for that.”

Wolff admitted that the last three races will have a different feel given that both titles are won.

“Flat out! Actually, we have been unleashing them all the time already. I don’t know, I have never been in that comfortable situation of being able to sit in a race and enjoy it like a fan, watch it. But then it’s also a crucial moment now to make sure that today’s race won’t release consequences within the team, and splitting the two sides of the garage.

“Celebrate the World Champion, let a couple of days pass, emotion cool down, have a chat. It’s never easy, it wasn’t easy the first time around. I think we’ve gained some experience, I’ve gained some experience, I’ve been around a little while now, and I just need to have a calm approach, but a firm approach, about how we would like them to compete out there.”

Asked if Rosberg would eventually be happy for Lewis he said: “That’s never going to happen. They are enemies in the same team. It’s clear that we cannot expect him to cheer up in such a situation.”


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Ecclestone: Honda wants to supply Red Bull but Dennis is blocking it

Bernie Ecclestone says that Honda wants to supply Red Bull in 2016 – but Ron Dennis is blocking the deal from happening.

Ecclestone added that he and the FIA agreed with Honda that they would expand to two teams in their second year. However, McLaren has a veto on the identity of who that team might be.

The honest answer at the moment it would appear that Honda are happy to give them an engine and Mr Dennis thinks they shouldn’t,” said Ecclestone. “Although Honda have got an agreement with the FIA and myself that they would allow them into F1 to supply to engines to one team for first year, two teams second and three teams the third.

And they somehow got involved and made a commitment to Ron that he had a veto on any engines, and he doesn’t want Red Bull. He doesn’t want them. I think he believes they may be competitors.”

Asked how McLaren could have a veto given the Honda/FIA agreement he said: “In fairness to Ron, he probably didn’t know. I am not blaming anybody. They are the facts.

At the time when they came in the FIA said if we let you into F1 you have to supply three teams, they said as we are brand new into F1 we don’t think we can do that. We supply one team for the first year and after that, second and third year.”

Ecclestone was non-committal on whether or not the deal would go through.

I don’t know…Ron has said definitely not. As far as he is concerned, so I don’t know if his veto will stand up.

They can only run Honda if Honda agreed and they won’t agree obviously and have an argument with Ron, because Ron will suit them.”

Asked if Honda would really represent competitive engine that Dietrich Mateschitz wants he said: “At the moment… But you don’t know what next year’s Honda is going to be.”


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Sebastian Vettel: “I hope that next year is a big step…”

Sebastian Vettel says he’ll have a lot more input into next year’s Ferrari having joined the team too late last season to have much impact on the 2015 car.

Vettel is also optimistic about Ferrari’s future prospects, especially given the progress the team has made in the course of this season.

“A lot more,” he said when asked about his input for 2016. “You don’t join the team until you join the team. Obviously there were a lot of decisions that were already taken, some decisions were taken when I was there already.

“The season we’ve had so far has been phenomenal, if you think firstly about where the team was last year. Second the situation that we faced at the very beginning, a lot of new people, people were changing positions within the factory. It’s not that easy all those things to digest for a team, but it has been great, and really strong getting the team together. I’m quite confident, and I hope that next year is a big step.”

Asked what changes he wanted to see he added: “I don’t really want to tell! If you look just at the organisation there’s been a lot of work going in trying to get the team together. There’s a lot of new people, people change their position within the company. Usually those things take time, just so that everybody understands what to do, getting everything right in terms of timing as well, that has been the main challenge this year for the while team.

“Also I was new at the beginning, so that people understand my language, when I talk about the car, the behaviour of the car, the weaknesses. So I think there’s a possibility for us to improve. Obviously we’ve done a massive step on the engine, that’s ongoing.

“At the end we want to have the best engine and the best car, so there’s plenty of stuff to do. It’s no secret that we need a little bit more downforce than we currently have, but it’s more the organisation behind it.”

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Rossi aiming to hang on to Manor seat in 2016

Alexander Rossi says he’s determined to hang on to his Manor seat in 2016.

Inevitably Rossi has been a focus of media and fan attention in the build-up to the race.

I think, first of all, that the reaction has been very positive, which is what we wanted to see,” he said today. “Of course there is pride that goes along with it, but that started in Singapore and Japan as well. Obviously to be here at home means a big deal, but at the same time we have a job to do and very clear objectives to meet. I’m looking forward to it; there are a lot of friends and family that will be coming this weekend. But I think once you get in the car and on track you appreciate the fact that there is a bigger picture.

Asked about his immediate and longer term goals he said: “With the current situation with the performance difference in the cars I think it’s very clear that the objective just needs to be continuing what we’ve done in the first two.

Both of those weekends there was quite a disrupted Friday for the whole team, so I think if we have a strong Friday the Sunday result can be even more positive. In terms of next year, I’m obviously quite keen to be in a full-time seat next year, which is apparent. The position that I’m in with the team at the moment is good and we’re looking to put that all together for next year.

Rossi said he couldn’t say how much of an advantage it was that he drove the Caterham at COTA in FP1 two years ago, and thus knows the track.

I’ll let you know tomorrow. Obviously it gives you a baseline but at the same time the cars in ’13 were clearly very different to what they are now. I don’t know how much is applicable to be honest. I think it’s more of a bonus, the fact that I’ve actually driven the track, more than anything else.”

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Toro Rosso turns down chance to run upgraded Renault

Scuderia Toro Rosso is not planning to take advantage of Renault’s latest upgraded engine over the last four races, because the team believes that it’s not worth taking extra grid penalties.

The Italian outfit has enough examples of the current spec to get to the end of the season. Meanwhile RBR has yet to make a definitive call, although Daniel Ricciardo suggested that it was unlikely.

“We’re going to stick for the rest of the year with the old spec,” said Carlos Sainz. “Given the [performance] values that they’ve given to get another grid penalty and start last, especially with the last four tracks, they are similar to this one… Okay, they are not the best tracks because they have long straights, but it’s not the worst, so we can be very close to the top ten, so to start last, I think it’s too much, it’s not worth it, so we will commit to this year’s spec that we have now, that’s good enough to finish the year, and we have plenty of them.

“It’s an important end of the season now, because we have four races that the tracks should not be bad for us, and we lost a lot of points from the middle of the season, particular me. We need four races where we can qualify decently and race hard from the top 10. So I don’t want to take more penalties to be honest.”

Max Verstappen suggested that the team would keep an eye on how Red Bull performs if and when it runs the new engine.

“I think we have to wait and see how much the difference is,” said Verstappen. “So we have to wait and see how what Red Bull does with the engine, if they are going to use it or not here, and what the difference is. If it’s not that much and you take again a penalty then your race is a bit more difficult again. We just have to wait and see. And if it’s good then hopefully we will have it soon as well.”


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Vettel and Raikkonen take grid penalty hit in Austin

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are both set to take 10-place penalties in Austin as they will both run fresh V6s.

Both men have already used four engines, but the team has decided that it’s worth taking the hit in the USA to gain more performance for the last three races. It’s understood that while no tokens have been used, the V6s do feature some revisions.

The news means that it’s a lot less likely that Vettel can keep the title battle alive until Mexico.

“We will have the hit of 10-places penalty for a new engine at this event,” said Vettel. “But it has always been the plan, it is not a big secret. No surprise for us. To explain to you the story, it was always the plan for us, to have the strongest engine available at every single point in the season, and I think our engine guys have done a massive job.

“So this should not be understood as a downside. If anything this is a very positive sign because we have been pushing very hard and the guys managed to make big steps in terms of performance.”

Elaborating on the pros and cons the German said: “Obviously if you look at just this race, isolated, for sure it’s not great news. But then you have to look at the while project, the whole season, and it was always the plan to have a fresh engine until the end of the season here. As I said the priority was always to have maximum power at every single race, and that has been our plan.

“It has worked very well so far. Obviously we have to take the hit here, but as I said you should see the positive, the fact that we were able to make big steps.”

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Red Bull and Toro Rosso yet to decide on using upgraded Renault

Red Bull and Toro Rosso have admitted that there is a chance that they may choose not to race Renault’s upgraded Formula 1 engine when it finally becomes available.

Renault has not yet used any of its 12 tokens, and the long-awaited upgraded D-spec is now not expected to be available before the US GP – leaving just four races in which it could be deployed, with the first invitably compromised by a grid penalty.

In Monza both teams made sufficient engine changes to get all four cars through to the end of the season with the current engine and without further changes, and thus grid penalties. If any of the drivers takes the upgrade, they would have to take an extra penalty in Austin in order to have use of a potentially stronger straightline package, and no more penalties, for the last three races.

RBR’s situation changed when one of Daniel Ricciardo’s new engines suffered a failure in FP3 in Italy, so the Australian is now obliged to make an extra change anyway, and take a penalty. Logic suggests that the team will attempt to postpone that change until Austin and thus give Ricciardo the upgrade for the end of the season races.

However, the decision on whether to stick with the proven old spec or go to the new one will involve weighing the potential increase in performance against any reliability risks associated with the upgrade.

Christian Horner admitted that it could transpire that neither RBR driver will actually use the revised engine.

“It’s a possibility,” he told this writer. “It depends on the value of the update. What you have to calculate is is the increase performance worth the deficit of grid positions?

“I think with Ricciardo he is going to have to take another engine, so theoretically that should be the D-spec if it’s reliable. At the moment I think a lot of work is being done in the background to make it reliable. It’s not a great situation obviously, but it is what it is, and we’ve just got to try and battle on through it.

“It’s beyond frustration, we’ve just got to deal with what we’ve got on a race-by-race basis.”

Meanwhile STR boss Franz Tost agreed that the potential performance increased was the key, and admitted that it could be worth taking the penalty in Austin if that led to a boost over the remaining three races.

“There are always different reasons behind an engine change,” he told this writer. “First of all we need a performance advantage behind it, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. Up to now we don’t have all the information about the D-spec. We will see.

“Of course if the D-spec is much better than the current one, we will take another penalty, because we need to show the best possible performance, and we need to take this advantage. After Austin in Mexico there’s a long straight, and in Sao Paulo there’s a very long straight. We need the best possible engine.

“If you ask me now from my personal opinion, then yes. But this is also a decision from the engineering side, not only my side.”

It could be argued that if after a huge effort Renault finally gets the upgraded engine to the track and it’s not actually used – or is perhaps used only by Ricciardo – it will represent a significant waste of resources. And that could be seen as an uncomfortable parting gift from the two teams…


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Hellmund: I’m willing to leave Austin project

Tavo Hellmund has admitted that he would be willing to drop out of the Austin project and has been in negotiation with his COTA partners over a buyout.

Given that his Full Throttle Productions company no longer actually holds a contract with Bernie Ecclestone to run a Grand Prix, his position would seem to be weaker than it once was.

Hellmund was keen to deny suggestions that he had turned down a significant sum.

“I have personally been a little bit bothered with some of the rumours that I’ve heard, that Tavo is holding out for money,” he said today. “I had a national reporter call me today and tell me that I walked away from $39m. I’m not money oriented.

“If I had been offered even less than 10% of that you wouldn’t be seeing me today, I would be in Tahiti working on my tan. I’ve spent six or seven years working on this and made a decent salary for one of those years, and I’m hoping that we can all get this back on the road.

“As recently as last night I’ve offered my services to try to fix this, but I don’t want anyone to question my motives.”

Hellmund admitted that after the dispute began, he offered to buy the other partners out, and they not only declined but then offered to buy him out. He said that it had been an “ongoing negotiation that really has nothing to do with whether F1 and Bernie bring the circus or not.”

Later Hellmund began to explain that he had agreed to a buyout before his attorney grabbed the microphone and said that no resolution has been reached.

However Hellmund added: “Let’s just say that there’s been a difference of philosophy, and for the good of the project, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to go forward. That’s the truth.”

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