Lewis Hamilton: I’ve got fight in me, ready to give everything in Abu Dhabi
Lewis Hamilton says he has a fighting spirit and is “going to give it everything” in the final Formula 1 race of the season in Abu Dhabi later this month.
The 2017 Drivers’ champion - who wrapped up the title at the Mexico GP in October - had a mixed weekend in Brazil, as he crashed out in Q1 and had to start the race from the pit lane.
Yet he put in a storming drive to come from the back of the field to finish in fourth place. Despite an excellent recovery, it was a second successive race in which Hamilton failed to finish on the podium, and he is determined to return to peak form in the final round.
“I am going to give it everything in Abu Dhabi,” explained Hamilton. “I love driving this year’s car, and I generally don’t like to wish time by.
“I am at the back end of a career that can still be relatively long, so it is easy to wish days by, but I am happy to take my time.
“I don’t wish the winter break was here because before you know it, we will be into the next season.”
As for his Brazilian GP weekend, the 32-year-old was frank about his mistake.
“[Qualifying] was horrible,” he said. “It felt just as c*** as it felt when I was eight years old and did the same thing. It doesn’t get any easier to handle those experiences.
“But it created an opportunity to shine and hopefully that’s what I did and continue to show I’ve got that fight in me and that drive and the skill to manoeuvre my car.
“It was cool to be able to brush up on some of my tools. That’s actually my biggest strength anyway, the race. To be good at the other ones is a bonus but the race is how I won championships when I was younger.”
Fernando Alonso’s warning to Toro Rosso: Honda engines are no good
Fernando Alonso has issued a warning to Toro Rosso that their 2018 season will be crippled by Honda’s underpowered engines.
The Red Bull junior team will be using Honda power units from next season, while McLaren - currently the only team with engines from the Japanese marque - will be switching to Renault.
Alonso finished eighth in this past weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, having been unable to make a pass on home favourite Felipe Massa due to a lack of grunt.
“We had a fantastic car all the race through but we could not overtake,” Alonso said in the paddock.
“The lack of power was amazing, the same in Mexico. I was very close to Felipe out of the last corner a few times and thought ‘now is the time I will pass him’ but even with DRS he was pulling away.
“The lack of power is quite worrying for Toro Rosso next year.
“For us, it’s a happy weekend. We started sixth, were fifth in the first corner, and then we finished in the points. Overall the best weekend so far and quite happy.
On the upcoming partnership with Renault, he added: “Renault is the best engine company in the last 15 or 20 years so I think we should not worry.”
Alain Prost calls for calm in Renualt v Toro Rosso feud
Former Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost has called for calm in the ongoing feud between the Renualt and Toro Rosso teams.
Prost, who acts as an adviser to the Renualt team, has promised that the junior Red Bull outfit will have engines for the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi later this month.
The animosity started when Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul suggested that Toro Rosso's reliability problems were self-inflicted and had nothing to do with the French marque.
In response, Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost issued a statement in which he essentially accused Renault of sabotage to weigh the odds in their favour in the battle between the teams on the Constructors’ Championship table.
Abiteboul and Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko were then seen arguing in the paddock at Interlagos in this past weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
“We would never play any dirty game to gain one position," Prost told Sky Sports F1, as he called for calm from the warring factions.
"We are struggling at the moment at the end of the year, as everybody can see. It’s not good for us, Red Bull or Toro Rosso. I don’t want to enter into the game about what Cyril said.
“They will have an engine in Abu Dhabi, there is no question about that."
Prost also elaborated on the reliability issues that are affecting everyone running Renault power, with the works team and Red Bull also feeling the strain at the end of the season.
He added: “It’s a combination of different things. We improved a lot the engine this year and in fact better than we thought.
“We were struggling with some parts, the MGU-H, some problem also with suppliers and then we had more problems with reliability with the three teams, especially Toro Rosso. So sometimes we miss some parts and at the end of the year we are struggling.
“It’s motor racing and sometimes you have a problem and then you have other things coming at the same time which makes it difficult. We are sorry, we do not want to have that.
"We want to finish sixth in the championship but we do not know if we are going to make it due to reliability problems. We suffer like everybody."
Fernando Alonso set to compete in Le Mans 24 Hours
McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso will reportedly compete in the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours behind the wheel of a Toyota.
Earlier this year the Spaniard skipped the Monaco Grand Prix (former teammate Jenson Button stood in for him) to go and drive in the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately his race in America ended in retirement.
Alonso has declared a desire to complete the mythical ‘Triple Crown’ of motor racing: win the Monaco GP, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.
The 36-year-old has won the Monaco race twice (2006 & 2007). Only Graham Hill has completed the Triple Crown.
“Le Mans is agreed,” a source close to Toyota told BBC Sport.
Yet Le Mans, it seems, will not be the only event Alonso has with Toyota in the endurance series next season - he’ll reportedly be appearing in many of their races through 2018.
The sourced added: “The rest of the season is still being negotiated but it looks like he will do most of the races.”
Alonso will test the Toyota WEC car in Bahrain on 19 November.
Mercedes set to begin 2018 part testing in last two races
With the Formula 1 Constructors’ and Divers’ Championships safely wrapped up, Mercedes have already turned their attention to the 2018 season.
The ‘Silver Arrows’ will use the last two races of the current campaign - in Brazil on Sunday and Abu Dhabi on November 26 - to test parts they plan on using next year.
"Inside the team, we are looking at the next two race weekends as the first two Grands Prix of 2018," Wolff said in his Brazilian Grand Prix preview.
"We have two races that we are determined to win in order to take that positive momentum into the winter.
"There will be no backing off just because the championship business is now done.
"In fact, these next two races speak to every principle that makes us what we are.
"We aspire to excellence in everything we do, from the first lap of the winter shakedown in Silverstone to the final lap of the post-season test in Abu Dhabi.
"And every time we race, we race to win. That is the mind set we take to Sao Paulo."
And even though Mercedes and Red Bull have won the last four races between them, Wolff reckons Ferrari remain a major threat for the last two GPs.
He added:"As recent rounds have shown, winning Grands Prix is never easy.
"Red Bull have taken two victories in the past four races and, although we have claimed the other two, Ferrari remain formidable opponents.
"With the championship now settled, the battle for 2018 has already begun."
Jacques Villeneuve: Vettel challenge woke Hamilton up
Former Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Lewis Hamilton was ‘woken up’ by the challenge of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the 2017 season.
The German won three of the first six Grands Prix this year and held a 25-point lead over Hamilton in the wake of the Monaco GP.
However, the British pilot bounced back in the second half of the campaign, winning five of the seven races since the summer break to clinch the title with two rounds to spare.
“Lewis is really, really good,” Villeneuve told Autosport. “He’s only ever been in the best team with the best car, or close to it, like every great champion, which is fine.
“If he can be the whole season like he’s been since the summer break, great, but he hasn’t done a full season like that.
“He wasn’t there. I think he fell asleep with [Valtteri] Bottas, and when he realised that Bottas wasn’t the one he had to fight, it was actually Vettel, that’s when he woke up.
“He spent years with Nico, and it was always tough with Nico. Then when Bottas arrived he was laughing – ‘phew, finally I’ll have an easy championship.’
“After a while he realised, ‘crap, Ferrari is there and Vettel is there.’ And Vettel is not one to give up.”
The 1996 World Champion also believes that this has been a good season for Formula 1.
“It’s always good when Ferrari is in the mix, and it’s always good when it’s a battle.
“On that aspect it’s been a good year to have faster cars, and it’s been a good year because we’ve been used to terrible years!
“So right now we’re saying, ‘Wow this was an amazing year.'”
Bernie Ecclestone: Don’t underestimate Ferrari’s F1 quit threat
Liberty Media, the owners of Formula 1, should not take Ferrari’s threat to quit the sport lightly, according to Bernie Ecclestone.
The Scuderia have voiced their disagreement with Liberty Media’s proposed engine changes, saying they could leave F1.
“If we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognisable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore,” warned the Italian marque’s president Sergio Marchionne.
And Ecclestone, the former ‘supremo’ of F1, says it is not an idle threat.
“If they can’t win, they will put forward new regulations,” he told the Independent newspaper.
“If the regulations come out where Ferrari think it is going to be a struggle and they can’t support the money, then they will leave.”
The 87-year-old also expects Marchionne to take issue with the proposed budget cap that Liberty Media could unveil as early as this week.
“They don’t want budget caps and all that,” he said. “They want to spend what they can afford to spend and I’ve always said the same thing.
“If people can’t spend they have to go. If there are then only three or four teams something would have to be done but until that actually happens nobody is going to do anything.
“All the teams that say they can’t afford it shouldn’t put an entry in.”
Max Verstappen fires warning to Lewis Hamilton for next season
Max Verstappen has warned newly-crowned World Champion Lewis Hamilton that he’ll have to raise his game to cope with the challenge of Red Bull Racing next season.
Hamilton wrapped up his fourth Drivers’ Championship at the last Grand Prix in Mexico, but the race was won by Verstappen. The Dutchman put in a dominant performance to further underline his status as a champion in waiting - something the British driver fully agrees with.
“There is always someone there waiting to take my position,” said the Mercedes pilot. “I’ve got Max sitting there waiting to take it. I’ve got to raise the game another level in order to stay ahead of him and that motivates me.”
Verstappen agrees that Hamilton will have to go up a gear or two if Red Bull can produce a competitive car for 2018.
“Well, he has to. Absolutely,” he told The Drive. “That’s nothing bad against Lewis, but when you win three, four World titles, your sharpness kind of disappears.
“So I think at one point if you have a real challenge again from someone, you have to raise your game.
“Because you’re not really used to fighting it out every single race for victories or podiums, which I’ve been doing for the last three years.
“I’ve never been in his position, so I’m really determined to get there. I’m really fired up to achieve that.”
Verstappen had high praise for Hamilton’s achievements, but argues that the dominance of Mercedes made his life a lot easier.
“I mean, a lot about it is the whole package,” Verstappen added. “Of course, he has been in the best car for three years now, so that helps a lot.
“That doesn’t take anything away from Lewis, because he’s a very talented driver. He’s naturally gifted.
“That’s the difference compared to his teammates, for example, that’s why he’s winning the championships. He’s better than everyone around him.
“Hopefully, next year we will have at least a similar package so I can take up the challenge, but we have to wait and see.”
Ferrari boss: Driver errors just as costly as reliability issues in 2017
Ferrari ‘big boss’ Sergio Marchionne says “driver error, or driver misjudgment” was just as costly as reliability gremlins in the 2017 season.
Sebastian Vettel surrendered his hope of winning the Drivers’ Championship at the last GP in Mexico, with Lewis Hamilton establishing an unassailable point lead.
The German was hit hard by engine issues in Malaysia and Japan, but he also made critical errors of his own - for which he said he felt he had let the team down - at Baku where he was given a stop-go penalty for retaliatory contact with Hamilton, and Singapore where he started from pole but crashed out in the opening lap.
“I don’t believe in bad luck,” Ferrari president Marchionne said of the Scuderia’s defeat.
“Ultimately it’s a reflection of the way in which we manage these businesses.
“It was a combination of, especially in the second half of the season, technical issues and driver error, or driver misjudgment.”
He added: “I think we’ve learned a lot. I think it’s a painful way of learning it.
“I think the second half revealed some structural weaknesses in the manner which we are managing this business, which are going to get rectified and hopefully 2018 will be a much better season.”
However, Marchionne reckons there are positives to be drawn from the season.
“If I’d asked anybody this time last year how well we would have done in 2017, I couldn’t have gotten a buyer for the idea that we would be that far advanced in the first half of the season,” he said.
“So we have done well given our starting point but we were unable to finish the task.
“It’s a 2018 objective now. We regret not having done better, but the car is there. It is in my view probably the best car on the track today.”
Lewis Hamilton expects “easy process” to renew with Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton has begun talks with Mercedes’ Formula 1 team over a new contract and the four-time World Champions says he expects it to be an “easy process”.
The 32-year-old’s current deal with the ‘Silver Arrows’ runs out at the end of the 2018 season, but it is widely expected that he will pen a new three-year contract with the German marque.
With four Drivers’ Championships under the belt, Hamilton is current at the peak of his powers and signing on with the sport’s dominant team is a no-brainer - even if it is expected that Mercedes will face stiffer competition next year, following Ferrari’s major stride forward this season.
"It is quite an easy process for us," Hamilton said. "We already have something in place and it's really just about extending it and enhancing it, working on what more I can do for them, for the sponsors, the brand and vice versa.
"But I'm pretty sure within the next month or so we will have had time to have sat down. Now all the pressure is off, we can go and enjoy these next couple of races."
Hamilton will look to continue his dominance when the F1 circus rolls into the famous Interlagos Circuit for the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 12.
Louder, cheaper and a more level playing field – FIA and F1 reveal new engine plans
The FIA and Formula 1 bosses have met in Paris to discuss proposals for new engine regulations which are set to be implemented from 2021.
The basic takeaways from the meeting are this: F1 engines need to be louder, more affordable and provide a level playing field for all teams.
“We’ve carefully listened to what the fans think about the current PU [power unit] and what they would like to see in the near future," said Ross Brawn, Formula 1 managing director.
"With the objective to define a set of regulations which will provide a powertrain that is simpler, cheaper and noisier and will create the conditions to facilitate new manufacturers to enter Formula 1 as powertrain suppliers and to reach a more levelled field in the sport.
“The new F1 has the target to be the world’s leading global sports competition married to state of the art technology. To excite, engage, and awe fans of all ages but to do so in a sustainable manner. We believe that the future power unit will achieve this.
“The 2021 power unit is an example of the future way the FIA as regulators, F1 as commercial right holders, the teams and the manufacturers as stakeholders will work together for the common good of the sport,” continued Brawn.
The key features:
- 1.6 Litre, V6 Turbo Hybrid
- 3000rpm higher engine running speed range to improve the sound
- Prescriptive internal design parameters to restrict development costs and discourage extreme designs and running conditions
- Removal of the MGUH
- More powerful MGUK with focus on manual driver deployment in race together with option to save up energy over several laps give a driver controlled tactical element to racing
- Single turbo with dimensional constraints and weight limits
- Standard energy store and control electronics
- High Level of external prescriptive design to give ‘Plug-And-Play’ engine/chassis/transmission swap capability
- Intention to investigate tighter fuel regulations and limits on number of fuels used
Fernando Alonso with fighting words for four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton
Fernando Alonso has called into the question the credibility of Lewis Hamilton’s 2017 Drivers’ Championship title, and believes next year he will be battling the Brit for top F1 honours.
Hamilton wrapped up his fourth title after finishing ninth in the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, with main rival Sebastian Vettel only able to come home in fourth when he had to win or finish second to keep his Championship hopes alive.
Yet Alonso, a double World Champion himself, reckons Hamilton had no real challengers following Nico Rosberg’s retirement at the end of 2016.
“It was very easy this year, no opponents,” Alonso said in regards to Hamilton’s title. “Last year he had Nico until the last race, fighting every single race.
“This year was too easy. Mercedes four races to the end Constructors’ champion, Hamilton three races before the end Drivers’ champion.
“Hopefully McLaren-Renault will change this easy time for them.”
Alonso is referring to next season when his McLaren will ditch the slow and unreliable Honda engine in favour of a more competitive power unit from Renault.
With more ‘oomph’ from the engine, Alonso reckons he would have been able to hold off Hamilton when the pair traded blows in the latter stages of the Mexican GP.
“At the end with Hamilton, as soon as you start battling, you lack a bit of straightline speed,” Alonso said.
“We tried to brake a little bit later every time, tried to defend the position but it was not possible.
“I think he knows, he knows. He knows also how strong the McLaren car [is] in the corners, he saw also today.
“I think next year hopefully we can give a little bit harder time to him.”
Mercedes would never “shoot themselves in the knee” – F1 boss Toto Wolff
Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has scoffed at Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion that the ‘Silver Arrows’ helped arch rivals Ferrari improve their engines.
Mercedes have dominated the sport since a major change of regulations at the start of the 2014 season, though this year they have had stiffer competition from the ‘Scuderia’.
According to former F1 supremo Ecclestone, Ferrari’s improvement is because Mercedes lent them a helping hand in upgrading their engine programme.
“In this case, no one can know except the one who did…” the 87-year-old told Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “Certainly at one point a hand with the engine was there.”
Pressed as to who had helped Ferrari, he replied: “Mercedes – and for good reason. A World Championship won against Sauber is one thing. One won against Ferrari is another.”
It’s an intriguing claim from Ecclestone, but as Wolff pointed out to Sky Sports, it makes no sense to help a competitor in such a cutthroat business as F1.
“I think we know about Bernie’s hand grenade – it has exploded in the paddock in Mexico even though he is in London,” Wolf exclaimed.
He added: “No, it is not true. No, if you lose the championship and you have done that then you have shot yourself in the knee.”
Even if Mercedes did help Ferrari, it hasn’t prevented the German giants from claiming another Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship double.
Daniel Ricciardo making Mercedes, Ferrari plans
Daniel Ricciardo appears to be angling for a move to either Ferrari or Mercedes in 2019, with the Australian happy to see teammate Max Verstappen commit himself to Red Bull Racing.
Earlier this month the Austrian team announced that Verstappen had extended his contract through to the end of 2020, taking him off the radar of the Scuderia and Silver Arrows.
Red Bull are hoping to keep a hold of Ricciardo beyond the end of his contract, which runs out at the end of 2018. Yet the fact they have kept an option on new Renault driver Carlos Sainz shows that they are hedging their bets.
As for the affable Aussie, he knows that both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas only have extensions through to the end of 2018 at Ferrari and Mercedes respectively, and one or both of those seats will probably open up at the same time that he becomes a free agent.
For now at least, he knows that Verstappen’s new deal means one less competitor for a sought-after drive.
“I don’t think it’s hurt me in any way,” said the Aussie. “If anything it has made my position a bit stronger. If Max was on the radar of a Ferrari or Mercedes, that’s removed one opponent in a way.
“And obviously Red Bull have expressed that they want to keep us as a pairing. It certainly hasn’t hurt me, and I think I can be patient for now.
“I’ve obviously got the start of next season on my side, I can see where we are at as well, with Red Bull, and then play it out. I’m not going to pull the trigger on anything early. I think I should be smart and take my time.”
Russian Roulette: Daniil Kvyat finally puts in a good drive… and is promptly fired
Only in the bizarre, alternate reality in which Formula 1 exists could a driver be recalled after a period on the sidelines, put in arguably his strongest performance of the year… and then be fired.
That is exactly the situation Daniil Kvyat finds himself in. The Russian’s career has been in a downward spiral since last season, and now it seems his time in F1 is over.
First he was axed from the ‘senior’ Red Bull Racing team and demoted to their ‘junior’ side Toro Rosso in 2016, suffering the ignominy of watching Max Verstappen take over his seat and become the sport’s rising star.
In 2017 a lack of pace and performance saw him temporarily dropped from Torro Rosso, with young Frenchman Pierre Gasly taking over his seat.
Kvyat returned to the Toro Rosso line-up alongside rookie Brendon Hartley at the US Grand Prix in Austin last weekend and would have had high hopes of keeping his seat for the Mexican GP in a few days’ time.
Especially as he put in a strong performance at the Circuit of the Americas, coming home in 10th place to earn a rare (for him, at least) World Championship point.
Yet the Russian has had the rug pulled from under his feet, first learning that Hartley and Gasly will race for Toro Rosso at the Mexican GP, before this piece of news from the creepy uncle of Red Bull’s young driver programme, Helmut Marko:
“Kvyat will not return again,” he bluntly told Auto Bild. “We do not believe he can make the turnaround in the long term.”
He added: “Gasly and Hartley will drive to the end of the season. Then we’ll see.”
Ouch. Kvyat has only himself to blame for his fortunes in F1 and Marko is probably right about the 23-year-old being not quite good enough, but to give him a glimmer of hope before metaphorically shooting him in the head is cold - even by F1’s ruthless standards.
Lewis Hamilton: Modern circuits to blame for Max Verstappen’s ‘short cut’
Lewis Hamilton has given his thoughts on the controversial decision to penalise Max Verstappen for his last-lap overtake of Kimi Raikkonen in the USA Grand Prix last weekend.
Verstappen thought he had claimed a brilliant third place with a drive from the back of the grid which culminated in a dramatic pass on Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
However, race stewards handed Verstappen a five-second penalty for leaving the track with all four wheels and gaining an unfair advantage in his battle with the Finn.
It’s very much a grey area, especially at a venue like the Circuit of the Americas where there is so much run off area and cars are routinely running completely off the track.
The crucial difference is that Verstappen gained an unfair advantage by doing so - even if Red Bull argued vociferously that this was not the case.
However, Hamilton rightly points out that on an old-fashioned circuit there is no such margin for error and the issue wouldn’t even have arisen.
“He’s off-track,” the Mercedes driver told Sky F1. “This is the problem with today’s circuits.
“I don’t know who made the decision but there’s all these run-off areas. Why is that not grass? If that was grass he wouldn’t have gone there.
“I just don’t know why there’s these flaws on these circuits. Particularly the new generation of driver comes in and is very happy to exploit these things.
“Clearly he’s way off the line. You can’t go there.
“It is very difficult and when we’re in drivers’ briefings, we’re always discussing and we say, ‘here you can gain an advantage’.
“There’s always an argument and Charlie [Whiting, FIA race director] says, ‘I don’t think you can gain an advantage there’ and we say, ‘yes, we can get on the power 10 metres earlier and just go wide’.
“It’s a really fine line and very hard. I think the FIA do a good job but I think they can’t build new tracks with these run-off areas.”
Speaking with the Sky team of Martin Brundle and Damon Hill, he added: “I loved it in your guys’ day when there was grass.
“You should pay some sort of price where you have to come off the gas and you take a bit of a bumpy ride, whether it’s onto stones or whatever. You don’t have that now.”