Jean Todt warns that budget cap alone won’t control costs in Formula 1
FIA president Jean Todt insists that a proposed budget cap won’t be enough to control costs in Formula 1.
The high cost of the sport has long been a controversial talking-point, with many teams hoping that a budget cap will be introduced to level the playing field.
Under the current rules and regulations, the ‘big three’ of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are able to flex their financial muscle and develop their cars to a much greater degree than the smaller teams.
The issue of spiraling costs has long been a sore point, but Todt insists that a budget cap would need to be accompanied by other measures to truly make the sport more affordable and accessible.
“We have been talking about cost control/cost cap for a while,” said Todt via Motorsport.com. “I believe it is a good move, but for me it has to be a combination.
“We need to make regulations which will have some impact on the actual costs. To simply say we are going make a cost cap, I don’t think it will work. So far, any attempt has not worked.
“We have to be able to agree something that will be more sophisticated in order to achieve that.”
Williams set to offer Robert Kubica reserve driver role
Williams Formula 1 team look set to offer Robert Kubica a reserve driver role for the 2018 season.
French media outlet L’Equipe reports that Kubica’s hopes of a fairytale return to the sport, having recovered from life-threatening injuries, won’t be fulfilled just yet.
The Polish racer has been vying for the open seat at the British team alongside youngster Lance Stroll, following Felipe Massa’s retirement at the end of 2017.
Yet it appears that Russian Sergey Sirotkin is set to land the Williams drive, with an announcement expected to be made sometime this week.
But rather than discard Kubica, Williams are interested in making him their reserve driver for the upcoming campaign and give him the chance to drive in Friday practice sessions.
With two young drivers in Sirotkin and Stroll, it is believed Kubica's experience would be a valuable asset to the team as he could help with the set-up of their 2018 challenger.
Zak Brown: McLaren need to be “challenging towards the front”
McLaren executive director Zak Brown says their Formula 1 team needs to be “challenging towards the front” of the grid in the 2018 season.
The British team has parted ways with engine supplier Honda after a disastrous three-year spell, and will be powered by Renault going forward.
The French marque’s engine is a proven race-winner, having taken Red Bull to three victories through 2017, so they were generally outpaced by the Ferrari and Mercedes cars.
Nonetheless, the new partnership is enough for Brown to be encouraged of much better fortunes for McLaren in 2018.
“We are one of the big teams, we need to get back to the front,” he told Sky Sports. “We haven’t, and certainly won’t publicly, set any expectations because that’s dangerous.
“We are coming off ninth in the championship so I can promise you we’ll be doing better than that but that’s the ball park we need to be. We expect to be challenging towards the front.”
He added: “We think we’ll have a competitive race car so I think you’re going to see Fernando [Alonso] and Stoffel [Vandoorne] racing each other hard – which will be exciting as long as they don’t take each other off! – and hopefully we’re fighting for podiums. I hope that’s the top step.”
However, Brown recognises that McLaren face a tough task breaking into the top three in the standings.
“Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are awesome teams that have significant budgets which hopefully will get addressed in the new deal [from 2021], but that’s still a few years away,” he explained.
“So we’re going to chase them hard and hope that we’re spraying some champagne.”
Jolyon Palmer deserves top drive – Renault chief
Renault Formula 1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul insists Jolyon Palmer deserves a “world class championship drive” - despite having dropped him toward the end of last season.
The British driver was axed by Renualt’s F1 team ahead of last year’s USA Grand Prix, with Carlos Sainz coming in to replace him.
The move saw the end of Palmer’s time in F1 and there has been no suggestion that he will be returning to the sport anytime soon.
However, Abiteboul is hopeful that the young driver will end up racing in a “world class” series.
“I think it’s fair to say Jo and his family are not in complete control of the next steps and their future,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.
“We did try to look at options, which I don’t want to detail publicly, but I don’t think Jonathan or Jo would challenge the fact we’ve been extremely helpful – the best we could.
“Anything we can do to help Jo we will do, because I really think he deserves to be in a world class championship.
“The avenues we explored have not worked out so far, but we will see – Renault is a large family in motorsports, we have a number of activities, so we will see what the future can hold for everyone.”
Force India boss: Esteban Ocon just as good as Max Verstappen
Red Bull Racing’s 20-year-old driver Max Verstappen is often heralded as the ‘future of Formula 1’, but Force India believe their youngster Esteban Ocon is every bit as good.
The 21-year-old Frenchman made his F1 debut last year and scored points in his very first race.
He went on to enjoy a fine 2017 season, finishing inside the top 10 in all but two races, while he didn’t suffer a DNF until the penultimate round of the championship in Brazil.
He helped Force India win the ‘best of the rest’ prize of fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship behind the big three of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, and his refusal to give an inch in the battle with his more experienced teammate Sergio Perez also caught the eye.
All this suggests that Ocon, like Verstappen, is set to be star for the sport in the coming years.
Otmar Szafnauer, Force India’s Chief Operating Officer, told Sky Sports: “It’s hard to know because they are driving different cars. But Max has signed a big contract with Red Bull and we’ve probably got Ocon for a hundredth of the price.
“I think Esteban is every bit as good. The first time we ran Esteban in the car we knew he was something special.
“He understands the car really well. He’s got great car control and because of it he can get to the limit very quickly and then he describes what he feels. He also knows what he wants from the car, which is very mature for his age.”
He added: “I think his biggest achievement is his continuous improvement. From where he started 2017 to where he is now, he’s improved in many aspects and I think because of that he’s scored in all-but two races and continues to push Checo. On any given Saturday we don’t know who is going to out-qualify who.”
However, Ocon is not technically Force India’s driver, as he is ‘on loan’ from Mercedes, and Szafnauer admits that the German team are likely to recall him in the not-too-distant future.
“Sometimes leasing is better than buying. They might have him back and I think the better he does, the more likelihood of him stepping up to a Mercedes role at some point but for now he’s with us. We’ll see what the future holds but I think he will continue to improve.”
Daniel Ricciardo wants ‘friction’ with Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen
Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that he wouldn’t mind a bit of ‘friction’ between himself and teammate Max Verstappen - as long as it means the pair are competing for race wins.
Ricciardo and Verstappen have generally enjoyed a good relationship, though their friendship was tested at the Hungaroring last year when the latter caused an accident which resulted in the former’s retirement from the race.
The affable Australian said Verstappen handled the incident well: "The hot water in Budapest, that was a bit of a test," he told Autosport.
"Fortunately he handled it well afterwards and apologised and did what he had to. So I feel like there is that respect for each other.
“Max matured a lot this year, on and off the track.
"On-track, he was more sensible. He was under a lot less scrutiny than he was last year. I feel like he also respects the competitors a bit more."
Yet Ricciardo added that some tension would inevitably arise if the pair were battling for wins and championships.
“We'd race it out," he explained. "If things happened, we'd find a way to deal with it but I'd still say it's a good problem to have.
"If there is a bit of friction, I'd rather that than be fighting for sixth and have no friction."
Helmut Marko: Honda and Toro Rosso could spring a surprise this year
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko - the ‘creepy uncle’ of Formula 1 - believes Honda and Toro Rosso’s new partnership could spring a surprise in this year’s championship.
The ‘junior’ Red Bull team had an acrimonious split from engine suppliers Renault last year and will run Honda power units from 2018.
While the Japanese manufacturer has endured a nightmare three-year return to the sport in their now defunct partnership with McLaren (who have shifted to Renault engines), there is genuine hope that their relationship with Toro Rosso will be a productive one.
"We are very happy with the Toro Rosso and Honda co-operation," Marko told Formula One's official website. "Toro Rosso will put all its efforts into making a competitive chassis.
"We do believe in Honda otherwise we wouldn't have made that deal. I am very impressed with the facilities that they have and their determination to win.
"It is just a matter of bringing everything together and we believe that this moment will arrive sooner than everybody is expecting. We will observe very closely – beyond 2018 everything is open."
Lewis Hamilton: I’m not Mercedes’ ‘team leader’
Reigning Formula 1 world champions Lewis Hamilton insists he is just a “small link in a long chain” at Mercedes.
The 32-year-old has four F1 titles under his belt and has been a ‘Silver Arrows’ driver for five years, compared to his teammate Valtteri Bottas who has had only one campaign with the German team.
Despite this, the Brit believes he is just a part of a bigger machine, shrugging off suggestions that he is the ‘team leader’.
"I don't look at myself as the leader of the team – I believe I am a small link in a long chain," he is quoted by Autosport.
"We all play a key link. The key is making the link as strong as it can be and that's what we have managed to do."
The driver enjoyed a much more productive relationship with Mercedes’ team management in 2017, following the tension of the previous season where he had several on-track clashes with former teammate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton explained that a clear-the-air meeting with team boss Toto Wolff ahead of the 2017 season was vital to restoring good relations.
"If you are at the office and your boss doesn't want you there it's going to be a shit environment, isn't it? You want to work there but you [also] don't," he said.
"That's just negativity drawing away from what you're great at.
"That meeting was really important to reset things, so when I arrive and the guys know I'm going to be giving it everything, they work that extra bit harder, and vice versa.
"If there's any negativity or question, it can only hold us back, so it was almost a purification of the relationship, and a re-start of the solid foundation we had already built y
Pascal Wehrlein a ‘potential world champion’… even though he’s out of a drive for next year
Pascal Wehrlein is a ‘potential world champion’, according to former Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn - even though he is without a drive for the 2018 F1 season.
Sauber have opted to retain Marcus Ericsson and partner him with Charles Leclerc - the current F2 champion who is being groomed by Ferrari.
This is despite the fact that Wehrlein, who knew his fate at the Swiss team had been decided some time ago, earned all five of the points Sauber recorded in the 2017 World Championship.
The 23-year-old sadly does not have the funding to keep his seat, plus Sauber felt that as he is a driver on Mercedes’ roster, he would land on his feet.
Kaltenborn, who was the first female team principal in F1 and served in the role for Sauber from late 2012 to midway through this year, believes Wehrlein is desperately unlucky to have been dropped.
“I think his performance in 2017 is still not properly appreciated,” Kaltenborn said. “Without him, the team would have scored no points at all.
“I just hope that he will continue to get what he deserves in Formula 1, which above all else is a cockpit.
“Pascal has the potential to become world champion with the right team. Anyone who has worked with him knows that.”
Wehrlein is considered an outsider for the last remaining seat on the grid at Williams and could find himself back in DTM with Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton: I won’t match Michael Schumacher’s seven titles
Lewis Hamilton believes that Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship titles is beyond his reach.
The 32-year-old claimed his fourth title in 2017 and now has only Juan Manuel Fangio (five) and Schumacher (seven) ahead of him in terms of total F1 titles.
The Mercedes driver believes he can draw level with Fangio, but reckons that at his age and with greater competition on the horizon it is highly unlikely that he’ll get to seven Championships.
“I can’t see it at the moment, four more. It has taken me 10 years to achieve this four,” Hamilton said.
“I don’t have that desire to match it. Matching Fangio could be quite cool. Being that I am going to be here for at least another couple of years, that is my goal to try and at least get that.
“When I am older and look back, I don’t think the amount of titles I have is going to define what I am as a driver or who I am.
“How I work with the team, how I drive the car, every time I drive the car and extract it from the car – that’s what I feel inside defines me.”
Ross Brawn admits Mercedes ‘steamroller’ fears for 2018
Formula 1 sporting director Ross Brawn has admitted his fear that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will continue to dominate the sport in 2018.
The Silver Arrows claimed a fourth successive Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championship double this year, with Hamilton picking up his fourth career title.
Red Bull and in particular Ferrari were able to challenge Mercedes through the first half of the season.
But once the German team got a grips on their “diva” car, they dominated the second half of the campaign and Hamilton was able to romp to glory.
This has Brawn fearing that their dominance will continue into next year.
“They’ve got a great group of people, but my slight worry is that they will get even stronger now,” he told ESPN.
“They’ve had a change of senior management – Paddy Lowe left and James Allison came – and that was in the middle of a car [regulation] change, which is not easy.
“By their own admission, the car they had this year was a bit of a diva and I strongly suspect that’s not going to be the case next year.
“So I just see – unfortunately in many ways – a continuation of the steamroller. Let’s hope I’m wrong!”
Lewis Hamilton reveals why he won’t be Fernando Alonso’s teammate again
Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton says he won’t partner Fernando Alonso in a team again because the pair create “negative energy”.
Alonso and Hamilton were teammates in 2007 but struggled to find common ground at McLaren, and their fractious relationship lasted just one season before the Spaniard moved away.
Yet many pundits have called for the two drivers to reunite, arguing that it would be the strongest pairing on the grid. Hamilton, however, says it will never happen.
Asked whether he would consider ever partnering Alonso, he told German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung: “No. That will not happen.
“Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team boss] understands how the interpersonal dynamics of a team works.
“I would compare it to a magnet: when two north poles meet, they repel each other. You need a north and a south pole.
“Two of the same result in negative energy, as in 2007 between me and Alonso.”
Would Ferrari really quit F1? Sergio Marchionne says it’s no idle threat…
Would Ferrari really quit Formula 1 if push came to shove?
Their president, Sergio Marchionne, insists that the Italian marque is prepared to walk away from the sport in protest at planned future regulations.
The Scuderia are objecting to F1 owner Liberty Media’s new engine blueprint, which was unveiled in October.
They want cheaper and simpler engines but their proposal was met with criticism from Ferrari and their major rivals Mercedes.
While Merc haven’t gone as far as threatening to quit F1, Ferrari are dead serious, as explained by their ‘big boss’.
“The dialogue has started and will continue to evolve,” Marchionne said during this past weekend’s Alfa Romeo event with the Sauber team.
“We have time until 2020 to find a solution which benefits Ferrari.
“We have to find a solution which is good for the sport but we also have to be clear on the things we can’t back down on.”
The idea of F1 without the famous crimson red of Ferrari seems too strange to imagine, but with neither side looking likely to back down, it’s a situation which could well come to pass.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner tips Daniel Ricciardo for 2018 title bid
Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner believes Daniel Ricciardo is a realistic contender for next year’s Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship.
The Australian finished a creditable fifth in the 2017 standings, though he was a massive 163 points off the pace set by champion Lewis Hamilton.
The four-time champion doesn’t seem to consider Ricciardo much of a threat, having publicly claimed that Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s other driver, Max Verstappen, are alongside himself as the four best pilots in F1 right now.
Horner believes Ricciardo should feature more strongly in Hamilton’s thinking: “Lewis would be very foolish to underestimate Daniel,” he told Sky Sports News.
“He’s a phenomenal driver, he’s arguably the best overtaker in the business. He’s driven some great races this year and some great races in his time at Red Bull.
“He’s absolutely ready for a championship challenge if we can provide him with the tools to do the job.”
The Red Bull boss is hopeful that 2017’s reliability issues have been put to bed and next season Ricciardo and Verstappen will be major players at the front of the grid.
“I’m really excited that we’ve got the strongest driver pairing in Formula 1,” added Horner.
“Max and Daniel, they push each other to such high limits and that’s tremendously exciting for us.”
Lewis Hamilton: Four F1 titles is surreal, not driven by records
Lewis Hamilton has revealed that being a four-time Formula 1 champion is “surreal”, but adds that he is not driven by records or statistics.
The Mercedes driver put in one of his best season performances through 2017 to claim his fourth Drivers’ Championship.
In doing so, he has joined Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and his current arch rival Sebastian Vettel in an elite club to have won four titles or more.
The British driver is also now second on the all-time list in terms of career races wins and podiums (his respective tallies of 62 and 117 are bettered only by Schumacher’s 91 and 155), has the record for the most consecutive race starts (208) and the record for pole positions (72).
“It is surreal,” Hamilton told Monster Energy’s Eric Johnson in regards to being a four-time F1 champion. “It hasn't really sunk in yet. It is very, very surreal.
“I guess it doesn't really register at the moment. I don't know whether if it's going to, or if it will or not, but… I was just saying to my friend, ‘Can you believe I'm four-time World Champion?’ We were both taken back a bit when we thought about it.”
The 32-year-old added, “Yeah, I've never really focused on the numbers or the records. Every now and then I'll get a record that I wasn't aware of it at the time people will talk about it.
“I think it's kind of neat sometimes when people mention it. It's not driving me, though. I just love driving. I just go out every day and if I'm there on a record, then cool. If not, I could really care less if I get it or not.
“I don't think a record defines who you are or how good you are. Records are there to be broken. But even if I just had to stop at the end of this year and I didn't get a record, it doesn't mean at that time that you are not the greatest. To think you have to drive for 20 years to be the greatest is just a misconception.”
Daniel Ricciardo sets contract talks deadline
Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo hopes to get talks about his future done and dusted before he ‘switches off’ over the Christmas period.
The Australian is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season and has been linked with a move to either Mercedes or Ferrari in 2019, where Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikonnen are currently on one-year renewals.
Ricciardo says his main priority is getting his work done in post-season testing, but he does hope to get talks out of the way so he can enjoy his holiday at the end of the year.
"I’m sure there will be a few discussions in the next week or two, especially with the team,” Ricciardo said.
"It’s not about the offer, it’s about who is going to have the best car for 2019.
"Once I get home and over Christmas, I want to switch off from racing so I would like to know something earlier.”