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Ferrari’s Vettel guarded over Mercedes switch

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel played coy on Thursday when tackled over suggestions that he is considering a switch from Ferrari to Mercedes next year.

Vettel

The four-time champion avoided giving an answer after it was put to him that Italian sources had claimed he was already in talks with the champions.

Speaking at a scheduled news conference ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Vettel said he was only concerned with leading Ferrari’s challenge this year.

“Is it coming from Italy?” he asked in response to one question. “I don’t know… Maybe you asked the Italians?

“They seem to know more than I do. I think the situation is clear. My main focus is on this year…

“We find ourselves in a very good position and that’s what we want to keep. Everything else is not that important.”

Vettel was in a laid-back mood, joking with home hero Fernando Alonso of McLaren who was sitting alongside him.

Asked about his prospects for success in this weekend’s contest, he was similarly cagey.

“I think we are in a much better position this year, than previous years, but it’s still fairly early.

“This will be an important race. People bring some bits, but if you look at the last 10 years, it’s not anymore a fixed date where you bring a new car. Top teams tend to bring stuff nearly every race.

“Mercedes have had a phenomenal run the past few years and they’re still the ones to beat. If you look race by race, and overall, they’ve been dominant and it’s difficult to beat that, but we’re doing our best.”

After two wins in the opening four races, Vettel leads the championship ahead of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by 13 points.

Mercedes still the team to beat in Russia – Vettel

April 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel believes his Mercedes rivals remain the team to beat at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix despite Ferrari convincingly topping Friday’s practice times.

Sebestian Vettel

The four-time world champion German and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen were first and second fastest at the end of an uneven day’s action in Sochi, the Finn having been fastest in the morning.

The Ferraris were more than six-tenths clear of third-placed Valtteri Bottas in the leading Mercedes with team-mate and three-time champion Lewis Hamilton admitting he struggled to wind up a disappointing fourth.

But Vettel said: “It’s a circuit that suits them so they will be strong tomorrow. I think last year people expected Williams to be fastest after Friday, if I remember right, and it turned out Mercedes was the fastest.

“That’s how sometimes you can be misled and I think there’s a lot of things we can play with in the car — fuel loads, engine modes…

“This looks like a Mercedes track. For sure they didn’t show everything today and they didn’t get a lap together.

“So the gap you see, it’s artificial.”

Mercedes have won all of the three previous races held at the Sochi Autodrom and led every lap.

Hamilton, who is seven points behind Vettel after three races, admitted he had endured a challenging day as he bids to keep his title bid on track.

“It was a bit of a difficult day for us,” the Briton said.

“We managed to complete everything that we needed to do on our runs, but in terms of the balance of the car, the Ferrari seemed very, very fast on the long runs.

“So we need to work out how we can improve our pace, but there’s still everything to play for.

Raikkonen, enjoying his revival in form, said: “I’m happy that things ran smoothly with no issues.

“We had quite a good feeling with the car straight away so it’s always more fun like that. So far it’s fine and tomorrow we have to make it a good day and go day by day.”

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was fifth-fastest despite stopping on the circuit following a loss of power, ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian admitted that the leading duo of teams had blown Red Bull away with their pace.

“In terms of us here this weekend, we know this is what we have got, so we are trying to do what we can with the current car and package,” he said.

“We have to try to target the top five. When I say that, it is behind Ferrari and Mercedes. To try to be the next best after them is our realistic target.”

Brazilian Felipe Massa, showing some of his best form again this season after taking a U-turn on retirement, was seventh for Williams ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Dane Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India.

Hamilton determined to avoid Sochi ‘screw-up’

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will arrive in Sochi ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix determined not to lose any more ground in his tightly-contested battle with Sebastian Vettel in this year’s title race.

Hamilton

The three-time world champion knows that even the smallest of errors, by driver or team, can decide the outcome after revealing that he suffered from a minor issue in Bahrain that may have cost him pole in qualifying.

The Briton said his Mercedes car had a slight problem with the engagement of its Drag Reduction System (DRS) during the decisive session and this may have handed his team-mate Valtteri Bottas his maiden pole position.

“It’s painful,” said Hamilton, talking about his realisation that just a fraction of a second may have been so costly in that race.

“I lost two tenths from Turn 10 to 11 when the DRS didn’t engage in qualifying and I lost half a tenth out of the last corner. So, I should easily have been on pole.”

Hamilton’s pain was moderated by the knowledge that four-time champion Vettel was faster in the race in his Ferrari, even though his advantage was only marginal as the Englishman stormed after him in the closing laps.

“I lost position at the start, solely my fault,” added Hamilton.

“Then you’ve got the time lost in the pit-lane and you practice and practice and practice and practice and practice — and you only have 20 opportunities this year.

“So when you screw up, man, it’s painful. There’s no other way of saying it. When you guys mess up in your job, I don’t know how you feel about it, but particularly when it has big consequences, potentially, I’m sure you feel gutted as well.

“And so I try to handle it the best way I can, but it eats you up a little bit inside and you’ve just got to end up trying to cope and move forward.”

Hamilton’s DRS failed to engage on the back straight in Bahrain and, he hopes, he can avoid a similar weekend of frustration back at the Sochi Autodrome, a part-street circuit built around the Olympic Park that hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, by the Black Sea.

History suggests he should start the race as favourite as Mercedes won all three of the previous contests in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Hamilton triumphing in the first two and retired champion German Nico Rosberg last year.

The Mercedes team also enjoyed one-two finishes in 2014 and 2016 while Vettel can point to one podium finish with Ferrari, taking second place in 2015.

It is expected to be a very different contest this time with Ferrari a greater threat in race trim even if Mercedes can maintain their run of three pole positions at the circuit.

After three rounds this year, Vettel and Ferrari have won twice and Hamilton and Mercedes once, an outcome that has put Vettel on 68 points ahead of Hamilton on 61 ahead of the Russian race.

A rueful Hamilton added: “I don’t remember thinking it was necessarily my fault we did not win in Australia, not in the sense that I ran out of tyres and had to pit…

“But in Bahrain there were certain things and if they were perfect, I would have been in a far better position to fight for the win…. And I didn’t put myself in that position.

“It’s only a small percentage, which is what racing should be all about, but we want to operate at the top end.”

Vettel triumphs in Bahrain as Hamilton pays penalty

April 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel moved clear at the top of the world championship on Sunday when he claimed a well-judged victory for Ferrari in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Sebestian Vettel

The 29-year-old four-time champion came home seven seconds ahead of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who made a late charge for victory after collecting a five-seconds penalty for a pit-lane misdemeanour.

Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third, after starting from his maiden pole position, ahead of compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and fifth-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

It was Vettel’s third win in Bahrain and the 44th of his career.

‘Brave warrior’ Hamilton wins Formula One Chinese GP

April 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton boldly christened himself “brave warrior” after winning the Chinese Grand Prix but the three-time world champion will have more than just title rival Sebastian Vettel to contend with this week in Bahrain.

Lewis Hamilton

As Hamilton celebrated a third Shanghai victory in four years with his Mercedes team, he unveiled a new tattoo on the left side of his ribcage bearing the Chinese characters “Brave Warrior” and “Love”.

But the Briton’s thunder had already been stolen by a jaw-dropping drive from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished third behind Ferrari’s Vettel after starting near the back of the grid.

The 19-year-old Dutchman began in 16th after an engine misfire in qualifying and tore past nine cars on the first lap alone, suggesting fears that the sport’s new rules had made overtaking harder were premature.

Both Hamilton and Vettel, who himself produced two breath-taking passes, will be casting nervous looks in their rear-view mirrors at Verstappen.

“He is right up there with all the best drivers,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who noted that Verstappen’s odds of reaching the podium after qualifying stood at 33-1.

“If it had not been insider trading, I’d have had a flutter. Max has a sixth sense in the wet. He is fearless. He explores all the boundaries of the track to find where the grip is.”

Verstappen’s aggressive approach has quickly made him a fan favourite and he has been compared with Formula One great Ayrton Senna, particularly after a seat-of-the-pants drive in Brazil last year when he stormed to third in pouring rain.

By the same token, he has ruffled feathers since making his F1 debut two years ago at just 17 with Ferrari’s Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both letting rip.

But Hamilton, who recognises a kindred spirit in Verstappen, retorted: “This young dude has been a real breath of fresh air for everyone.”

Wider cars and fatter tyres were supposed to make overtaking a dying art, but Verstappen and Vettel went some way to exploding that myth in China.

On a track still slick after morning drizzle, Verstappen pulled off an audacious piece of skill to pass Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, braking late to lunge inside on turn six.

Equally as impressive were Vettel’s pass on Raikkonen after early frustration, and his wheel-to-wheel clash in overtaking Ricciardo, which recalled the days before one team dominated the sport.

Mercedes have enjoyed a stranglehold over Formula One for the past three years, the German team winning all but two races in 2016.

Before that, Vettel won four successive titles with Red Bull on a streak so monotonous he was repeatedly booed on the podium.

But Formula One suddenly has a title race with Vettel and Hamilton heading to Bahrain tied on 43 points after the German’s stunning victory in the season opener in Australia.

Verstappen is placed third on 25, with Valtteri Bottas on 23 for Mercedes, Raikkonen on 22 and Ricciardo 12, adding spice to this week’s dust-up in the desert.

Ex-Formula One star Webber backs Hamilton over Vettel

April 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s racing rock star who is a master of all conditions, has the edge over championship-leader Sebastian Vettel and remains favourite for this year’s title, according to former star Mark Webber.

Hamilton

Australian Webber, now 40, knows Vettel as a racer and a team-mate after their strained but glorious years together at Red Bull.

He believes the battle of the two multiple champions will be the centre-piece of the 2017 season as Ferrari and Mercedes slug it out in a development war with the ‘fatter and faster’ cars that made a record-smashing debut in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“The CVs are getting similar aren’t they? That can re-fire the candle for Seb,” Webber told AFP.

“And don’t forget, Lewis can sometimes be a bit off it, not feeling quite right on a Friday.

“But ultimately, I think Lewis has more outright skill than Sebastian. He’s so good, so very, very good, in the rain and in all conditions.

“But if Seb gets a sniff of success, he can be frightening. I know about that! But for outright skill, it’s Lewis -– and Mercedes are the stable team, the team to beat.”

A veteran of 215 Grands Prix with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull, Webber was a team-mate of Vettel during the German’s four-year pomp as champion and close rival to the younger pre-Mercedes Hamilton.

This weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, where Hamilton seeks his first win of the season and his fifth at Shanghai despite the poor weather conditions, is expected to give a much more accurate guide to the year ahead than the race in Melbourne where, after dominating qualifying, Hamilton was held up in traffic and finished second.

Webber admitted it was Hamilton’s record-breaking charge to pole position that left the most serious impression.

“What we have seen is a supremely confident Lewis who, at 32, has been exceptional,” he said. “Remember, he hadn’t been there for 12 months and he went straight out there and he was just… exceptional!

“He was so confident. I think he looked like he was going to crash the car. He was that quick and that confident. He was on the edge straightaway.”

He was not, he said, surprised to see Vettel end Ferrari’s 18-month winless drought in Melbourne.

“I think Ferrari are going to win races, but a season? I think they’ve got Sebastian engaged again and that is crucial.

“The ‘marriage’ is back on, but if they are not winning consistently in the next eight months he will be looking over the fence.”

Webber, now working as an ambassador for Rolex amid other commitments, believes also that Vettel’s new life as a family man may have an effect on the battle with the Englishman.

“Sebastian, he is a very human guy,” he said. “He’s very private. We all love our families, of course — and I think he’s always had the big picture in his mind.

“Having said that, deep down, he is still a very tough competitor and he loves winning.”

Ferrari’s Vettel masters Hamilton to win Australian GP

March 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel out-manoeuvred Lewis Hamilton and the world champion Mercedes team with a stunning victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Vettel

Vettel won by almost 10 seconds from Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a commanding victory of tactics and superior speed around the Albert Park street circuit.

Ferrari hadn’t won in Melbourne since Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 victory and it was Vettel’s second triumph in Australia after winning the 2011 race with Red Bull.

It was also a major fillip for the fledgling season and the new generation of quicker cars after Ferrari’s superior pre-season test times as they chase their first world constructors’ title since 2008.

The victory was the German four-time world champion’s fourth for Ferrari and his first since Singapore in 2015 and his 43rd career win.

“A title challenge is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon at the start we have made here today,” Vettel said.

“I was not entirely happy with my start, there was a bit of wheel spin, but I was trying to keep the pressure on to give the message that we are here to fight.

“There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic.”

Ferrari got the better of Mercedes in the sole round of tyre changes which ultimately decided the race.

Hamilton’s early stop meant he rejoined behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen which allowed Vettel to open up a decisive gap at the head of the field.

“A big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian,” Hamilton said.

“In the race, I struggled with the tyres. I had to stop very early and I got stuck behind one of the Red Bulls, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with Verstappen fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the Williams.

Australia’s big hope Daniel Ricciardo had a heartbreaking day with gear box problems ending his race on the 29th lap after he was forced to start from pit lane when his Red Bull car broke down on the warm-up lap.

Hamilton, who went into the race on his fourth successive pole in Melbourne, got away safely and avoided trouble into the notorious right hander out of home straight.

But Kevin Magnussen in a Haas clipped the kerb and slid into the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson on the first turn. Both cars continued on in the race.

Hamilton grabbed a 1.5sec gap on Vettel after nine laps ahead of Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Hamilton made his first pit stop after lap 17 to change to soft tyres on his Mercedes to hand the lead over to Vettel and rejoined the race in fifth spot behind Verstappen.

“Race critical that you pass Verstappen,” Hamilton was told over the team radio to which he testily responded “how do you expect me to do that right now?” as his pace slowed behind the Red Bull.

Vettel came into the pits to change tyres and rejoined the race just squeezing in ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton.

When Verstappen came into the pits Vettel had opened a six-second lead over Hamilton at mid-distance.

Ricciardo’s traumatic race came to a sorry end on the 29th lap with his Red Bull coming to a stop with lingering gearbox problems.

“Sorry mate – the car’s done,” the Red Bull team told the disconsolate Ricciardo over the radio.

Vettel extended his lead over Hamilton to over nine seconds after 41 laps with the triple world champion seemingly unable to reel him in.

Bottas was pressuring Hamilton and was only just over two seconds behind in third place with Raikkonen struggling in fourth place ahead of Verstappen.

Mercedes had no answer to the pace of Vettel, who posted a new fastest lap of 1:26.638 in the final laps of the race.

Ferrari seek Vettel Mexico penalty review

November 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari have submitted a request to the International Motoring Federation (FIA) for a review of the stewards’ decision to penalise Sebastian Vettel at the Mexican Grand Prix.

Vettel

The four-time world champion was given a 10-seconds penalty for moving under braking during an on-track battle with Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull.

This cost him third place on the podium, after he had taken part in the post-race celebrations.

Vettel was relegated from third to fifth.

In their request, Ferrari said “new elements have come to light” to support their view that, even if the result cannot be changed, it was important to set a precedent.

“Scuderia Ferrari has submitted a request to the Stewards of the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix to review their decision to penalize Sebastian Vettel for breach of Article 27.5 of the 2016 F1 Sporting Regulations as a consequence of his driving behavior in Turn 4 of lap 70,” said a statement from Ferrari on Thursday.

“Scuderia Ferrari considers that a number of new elements have come to light after the decision was rendered that make the decision reviewable under Article 14.1 of the International Sporting Code.

“Scuderia Ferrari is aware that championship rankings will not change, regardless of the outcome. But in light of its importance as a precedent for the future, and in order to provide clarity in the application of the rules in future events, Scuderia Ferrari believes that the decision should be reconsidered by the Stewards.”

Earlier Thursday, during a news conference, Vettel had repeated that he did not agree with the stewards’ decision.

“I think I moved over once to defend my position,” he said. “After that, I think I gave Daniel enough room on the inside.”

He added that Ricciardo had locked up because there was no grip on the inside of the track.

Losing Allison won’t affect Ferrari much in the short-term: Vettel

July 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Four-times champion Sebastian Vettel feels the sudden departure of technical director James Allison will not have a major impact on his Ferrari team in the immediate future.

Scuderia Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel is seen in the pits during the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod near Budapest, Hungary, on July 24, 2016. REUTERS/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

“Obviously there will be a difference but in the short term it doesn’t change that much,” Vettel told reporters at the Hockenheim circuit on Thursday.

Ferrari announced Allison’s departure on Wednesday, saying the Maranello-based squad and the Briton had mutually agreed to part ways, in a move that could deal a big blow to its title ambitions.

The highly regarded Allison was seen as the man to spearhead a turnaround in the fortunes of the sport’s most successful team.

His departure leaves Ferrari lacking crucial technical leadership, especially with Formula One set for sweeping rule changes next year.

But Vettel threw his weight behind chairman and chief executive Sergio Marchionne and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene when quizzed about their Formula One expertise.

He also expressed confidence in Mattia Binotto, the team’s new chief technical officer who has been with Ferrari since 1995.

“I think we have the right people on board,” Vettel said. “Obviously it’s a big change now which doesn’t impact on tomorrow’s work but obviously for the future, no doubt about it, but I think things are headed in the right direction.”

Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen refused to be drawn on Allison’s departure.

“I’m here as a driver and to be honest I don’t want to get involved,” said the former champion, who also worked with the 48-year-old during his stint with Lotus.

“Obviously I have a lot of respect for him and also that’s the reason why I don’t want to get involved with the whole thing. That’s about it.”

Ferrari returned to the top of the podium with three wins last year after enduring their first season without a victory in over two decades in 2014.

But the team has struggled to match that form this year. They are second in the standings, without a win, and in danger of being overhauled by rivals Red Bull, who are one point behind.

Hamilton wins in Hungary to take overall lead

July 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday to seize the championship lead from team mate Nico Rosberg for the first time this season.

Hungary Formula One - F1 - Hungarian Grand Prix 2016 - Hungaroring, Hungary - 24/7/16 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the race REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

The Briton took the chequered flag less than two seconds ahead of the German, who had lined up on pole position at the Hungaroring but lost out to Hamilton at the start in the key moment of the race.

Hamilton, who has now won in Hungary a record five times, leads Rosberg by six points after 11 of the season’s 21 races. The Briton has won five of the last six races, including the last three.

“The start was everything,” said Hamilton. “This is a great result for the team. What a day.”

Sunday’s win was the 48th of his career and fifth of the season.

Until Sunday he had shared the record for Hungary GP wins with seven times champion Michael Schumacher.

“I grew up watching Michael so to have a similar number, and now one more than he had here, is incredible,” said Hamilton.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished third for Red Bull after pushing the Mercedes pair hard enough at one point for the champions to tell Hamilton to pick up the pace.

Ferrari’s four times world champion Sebastian Vettel, also a previous winner in Hungary, finished fourth after sounding off over the team radio about slower cars holding him up as he lapped them.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen held off Ferrari’s feisty Kimi Raikkonen for fifth. The Finn had started 14th but a long first stint saw him challenging the Dutchman.

The battle between the pair provided a moment of excitement in an otherwise uneventful race, with Raikkonen clipping the back of Verstappen’s car and damaging his front wing in an attempt to pass the 18-year-old.

Fernando Alonso was the sole surviving McLaren in seventh.

McLaren’s hopes of a strong result on the back of their best qualifying performance since renewing their engine partnership with Honda were dashed early on, with Jenson Button falling down the order with hydraulics problems.

The 2009 world champion also collected a drive-through penalty for a breach of radio rules before finally retiring late in the race.

Rosberg, who has also won five races this year, will have the chance to seize back the lead in his home German Grand Prix. The race at Hockenheim, absent from the calendar last year, takes place in just a week’s time.

“It was all down to the start in the end,” said Rosberg of Sunday’s race. “From then on I was trying to put all the pressure on Lewis but it’s not possible to pass at this track.

“To have the next race coming up very quickly sounds good, at my home race…it’s going to be awesome.”

Vettel slams radio rules as ‘joke’

July 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Former world champion Sebastian Vettel has slammed Formula One’s decision to tighten radio rules, saying that drivers and teams should be free to say whatever they want to each other during a race.

Vettel

“All the radio issues we’ve had, I think it’s a joke,” the Ferrari driver told reporters on Thursday during preparations for this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The governing International Automobile Federation’s (FIA) Formula One race director Charlie Whiting issued a “technical directive” to teams on Wednesday to clarify what they are allowed to tell their drivers over the radio.

According to the document, seen by Reuters, teams can inform a driver about concerns with their vehicle but “any message of this sort must include an irreversible instruction to enter the pits to rectify the problem or to retire the car”.

The fresh directive also underlined that the radio restrictions will not apply if a car is in the pitlane, whereas earlier they kicked in as soon as the vehicle left the garage.

The clarification came after Nico Rosberg, who had help from Mercedes in getting around gearbox gremlins at this month’s British Grand Prix, was found to be in breach of the rule barring teams from giving drivers assistance over the radio.

A week earlier Force India’s Sergio Perez crashed out on the last lap of the Austrian Grand Prix with brake problems because the team felt the rules prevented them from informing the Mexican of the issue.

German Vettel, 29, said curbing radio transmissions was the wrong way to go, given the technological complexity of modern-day cars, and called for the restrictions to be lifted.

“It’s not our mistake, as in the drivers, that the cars are so complicated these days that they need a big manual and a steering wheel full of buttons to operate it,” the four-times world champion said.

Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton, however, brushed off the change, saying it “doesn’t make any difference to me” while team mate Rosberg said he did not have an opinion on it.

Rosberg cruises to victory in Azerbaijan

June 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nico Rosberg won the first Formula One grand prix held in Azerbaijan on Sunday to turn the championship tide and stretch his lead over frustrated Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton to 24 points.

Formula One - Grand Prix of Europe - Baku, Azerbaijan - 19/6/16 - Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg (C) of Germany celebrates winning the race next to second placed Ferrari Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany, third placed Force India Formula One driver Sergio Perez of Mexico and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev (2nd R) and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was runner-up, 16.6 seconds behind, with Force India’s Mexican Sergio Perez on the podium for the second time in three races after overtaking Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari on the last lap.

Rosberg started on pole position, led all the way and also set the fastest lap as he chalked up a fifth win in eight races this season. With 13 rounds remaining, the German has 141 points and Hamilton 117.

“It was a special feeling out there in the car because it felt like I could do whatever I wanted. The thing would just stick to the line, stick to the ground, there was no risk of making mistakes or anything,” said Rosberg.

While his cruise in the late afternoon sunshine turned out to be something of a snooze for the global television audience, triple world champion Hamilton provided more entertainment.

The Briton, who had been chasing his third win in a row but finished fifth, sounded increasingly frustrated over the radio as he wrestled with his car’s settings without the team being able to help because of a clampdown on ‘driver aids’.

The problem eventually resolved itself.

“This is ridiculous guys, I don’t know. I’m looking at my dash every five seconds trying to find a switch in the wrong position,” Hamilton said over the team radio.

“I might not finish this race as I’m going to try and change everything,” he continued. “We don’t advise that, Lewis,” came the reply from the pitwall.

“Can I make suggestions and you say if it’s OK or not?,” replied Hamilton. “No, that’s not allowed. Let’s just get our heads down and focus on the job,” he was told.

The Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told reporters it was a question of engine modes and Rosberg had been able to fix his quicker than his team mate.

However Mercedes later clarified that, saying the situation was more complicated.

Rosberg had made a change that he could reverse whereas Hamilton’s had been pre-set before the race and he had no information about where to look.

“All they can tell me is there is a switch error, so I am looking at every single switch thinking, ‘Am I being an idiot here? Have I done something wrong?’ I hadn’t,” said the Briton, who said the distraction had been dangerous.

Raikkonen, who had allowed Vettel to pass him after collecting a time penalty for crossing the white lines at the pit lane entry, expressed similar exasperation to Ferrari.

The outbursts were highlights on a day with none of the mayhem predicted after a series of accidents in the GP2 support series, in F1 practice and qualifying.

Nobody crashed, the tight turns around the ancient city walls were safely negotiated by all and the 350km blast down the long main straight produced no drama. All but four cars finished.

“I think people lost a lot of money because they were betting on a safety car. I was expecting a couple too,” said Vettel.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas finished sixth for Williams, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo seventh for Red Bull after starting on the front row.

Dutch team mate Max Verstappen was eighth, Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg secured a double points finish for Force India in ninth and Brazilian Felipe Massa was 10th for Williams.

Vettel in less than fine fettle over qualifying

April 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Formula One bosses would get it wrong even if they were selling ice cream and everybody wanted one flavour, Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday as the sport’s qualifying format drew further criticism.

Formula One - Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 20/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/JASON REED

The Ferrari driver told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix he was “as disappointed as probably anyone I know” the new system was not changed after failing on its debut in Australia on March 20.

“Put it this way, if you sell vanilla ice cream but everybody who comes to your shop is asking for chocolate ice cream,” explained four-times world champion Vettel.

“The next day you open you expect to sell chocolate ice cream but instead you just sell vanilla again.

“Usually you do what your clients would like you to do but you are not really doing the job if you do the exact opposite. It’s something we can’t be proud of,” added the German.

Team bosses and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreed after qualifying in Melbourne the elimination format had not worked and needed to be changed before Bahrain.

Instead of an exciting battle for pole position in the third and final phase, there were no cars on the track in the closing minutes in Australia as drivers sat in their garages and watched the clock tick down.

Drivers and others called for qualifying to revert entirely to the 2015 format, or for the third and final phase to be held according to the old rules.

A subsequent vote failed to secure the required unanimity, however, and the format was kept intact with a promise it would be reviewed after this weekend’s race.

The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) wrote to Ecclestone and Jean Todt, president of the governing FIA, after Melbourne to call for a change in the decision-making processes and governance.

“We made it clear there’s something that’s not right and something has to change,” said Vettel, one of the GPDA directors, with drivers expressing fears that fans would be turned off.

Triple champion Lewis Hamilton, who is not a member of the GPDA, said he backed the drivers’ stance but was not surprised to see the qualifying format stay the same “just because of the way Formula One is.

“There’s never like a clear-cut decision,” he told reporters. “It is back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. One minute it is one way, one minute it is another way, the next minute it is another way.”

 

Formula One drivers call for change of governance

March 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Grand Prix drivers called on Wednesday for Formula One to change the way it is run and abandon ‘obsolete and ill-structured’ decision-making processes that they said could affect the sport’s popularity.

Full View Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel walks in the paddock ahead of the weekend's Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on March 26, 2015. (AFP)

The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) set out their views in a strongly-worded open letter, signed by champions Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel as well as chairman Alex Wurz, to stakeholders and fans.

It called for Formula One’s owners to “consider restructuring its own governance” and said the sport needed to base its decisions on a “clear master plan” reflecting core values.

“We feel that some recent rule changes — on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business directions — are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success,” it said.

“The drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill-structured and prevents progress being made,” the drivers added

“Indeed, it can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock.”

The letter, a rare intervention by the drivers who normally focus on specific racing issues, said the sport was “challenged” by a difficult global economic environment, changing consumer behaviour and a shift in the television and media landscape.

It added that the decision-making process reflected negatively on the sport, compromising global growth and preventing it being fit “for the next generation of fans”.

The GPDA represents most of the Formula One grid, with some exceptions, and serves as a common voice and negotiating body with the commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone and governing International Automobile Federation (FIA).

While the opening race of the season in Australia last weekend served up plenty of excitement, a new qualifying format that was rushed through only weeks earlier came in for widespread criticism.

The final eight-car elimination phase saw little track action with cars parked up long before the finish instead of producing a battle to the final seconds.

The same team bosses who had agreed the new format, with the FIA and Ecclestone, said on Sunday that it had not worked and the sport should go back to the old system before the next race in Bahrain.

Formula One also endured in controversy in 2014 when double points were awarded for the season’s final race in Abu Dhabi — a move that was abandoned for 2015 after a backlash from fans.

Talks on changes for 2017 have also been kicked further down the road, with the core Strategy Group that includes the top six teams, the FIA and Ecclestone, failing to agree any substantive measures in March.

The way in which the sport’s revenues are distributed is another sore point, with the struggling smaller independent outfits unhappy that the big teams take far more.

Vettel engine penalty boosts Hamilton’s title hopes

October 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning his third Formula One world championship at the U.S. Grand Prix were boosted on Thursday when closest rival Sebastian Vettel said he would have a 10 place penalty on the starting grid.

Vettel

Vettel’s Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen will take a similar penalty, which will further reduce the team’s chances of beating Hamilton’s Mercedes unless the weather, which is expected to be wet, intervenes.

“We will have the hit of a 10 places penalty for a new engine at this event but it has always been the plan, it’s not a big secret,” Vettel told reporters at the Circuit of the Americas.

“Obviously if you look at just this race in isolation, for sure it’s not great news but then you have to look at the whole project, the whole season and it was always the plan to have a fresh engine until the end of the season (from) here,” added the German.

Britain’s Hamilton, who has won nine of the 15 races so far, leads Vettel by 66 points in the standings with four races remaining.

His Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg is 73 points adrift, which means Hamilton needs to score nine points more than Vettel and two more than Rosberg to be sure of his second successive crown.

A Mercedes one-two, with Hamilton winning, would do that but Rosberg said the Briton would still face a battle with him in Sunday’s race.

“There is nothing to lose. I want to win and I have the opportunity to win,” said the German.

“It makes it more simple for us, the weekend,” he said of Ferrari’s penalties. “But they are still a threat even from where they are because you never know with the weather or whatever.”

Hamilton has won two of the three races in Austin to date and three of the last four in the United States, with Vettel taking the other.

Vettel has won three grands prix this year, the same number as Rosberg, and he and Hamilton are the only drivers to have won in Austin since it first hosted the championship in 2012.

The German, who won his four world championships with Red Bull, has also started twice on pole in Texas.

The new engine will be Vettel’s fifth of the season, incurring a penalty because it exceeds the allocation of four, but Ferrari have already hit their targets for the season after failing to win a race last year.

“The priority was always to have maximum power at every single race and that has been our plan and I think it worked very well so far,” said Vettel.

“Obviously we have to take the hit here but then we should see the positive and the fact we were able to make big steps.”

Hamilton would welcome more battles with Vettel

October 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton welcomes the prospect of regular wheel-to-wheel battles with Sebastian Vettel in the future – once he and his Mercedes team have made sure of winning this years title race.

Hamilton

The defending two-time world champion said Ferrari’s revival since four-time champion German Vettel had joined them proved they are a real threat to Mercedes’ domination.

Speaking to reporters at Sochi on Thursday, ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, the 30-year-old Briton said he would enjoy much more close racing with the Ferrari driver.

“I think it would be cool to see a lot more of the racing like I had with Nico (Rosberg) in Bahrain last season – it was like a karting race!” said Hamilton.

“It would be great if we could have more than that, week in and week out and I would love that with Sebastian.”

Hamilton added that he expected Ferrari to become an increasingly threatening rival to Mercedes. “They have had a few wins and they are improving all the time,” he said.

“They are a serious threat and will continue to be a threat, but we are not going to give up improving and working to stay on top.”

Vettel needs lottery winner’s luck, says Arrivabene

September 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel would have to be as lucky as a lottery winner to clinch this year’s Formula One championship after another dominant display by Mercedes at the weekend, according to Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

Ferrari Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit September 20, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

With five races left and a maximum 125 points to be won, Ferrari’s German driver is 59 adrift of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton who chalked up his eighth win of the season in Japan on Sunday.

“If you win the lottery, you become a millionaire,” Arrivabene told reporters when asked whether Vettel still had a chance of a fifth career title this year. “To win the lottery you need to be lucky.

“So if we are lucky, yes. But we need to be really lucky,” he added.

Vettel, who won his four titles with Red Bull, has won three races so far in his first season with Ferrari and hopes rose that he might have an outside chance after Mercedes slumped in Singapore.

However, Suzuka showed the reigning champions were back to their old ways, with Hamilton leading closest rival and team mate Nico Rosberg in a one-two finish after locking out the front row in qualifying.

Hamilton now has a 48-point advantage over Rosberg and is heading for his third title and second in a row.

Vettel was under no illusions about his chances, even if he was not giving up all hope until mathematically ruled out.

“It’s not done until it’s done,” said the man who won his first title in 2010 despite not leading the championship at any point until the final race.

“The chance is there — and what kind of racing driver would I be if I stopped believing?

“Of course I know it’s difficult because the opponent is very strong … but you have to keep believing otherwise I guess it’s pointless rocking up and trying to fight.

“Being realistic I think it will be very, very difficult but who knows what’s going to happen? We have to do our thing and that’s the maximum we can do. Everything else is not in our hands, it’s probably in their hands.”

Second placed Ferrari are 169 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ standings with a maximum 215 still to be won.

Vettel stuns Hamilton with Singapore pole

September 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel denied Lewis Hamilton a record-equalling eighth straight pole position as he dominated qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel

The four-time world champion clocked 1min 43.885sec on the demanding street circuit to front the grid for the first time in nearly two years, with Mercedes’ Hamilton down in fifth.

Vettel was nearly half-a-second faster than second-placed Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing third in the other Ferrari.

“I’m surprised by the margin but I think it just came together. I had a near-perfect lap at the end,” said Vettel, after screaming his celebrations over the team radio.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat was fourth, ahead of Hamilton and his team-mate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes’ 23-race stranglehold on the front spot was emphatically broken.

Vettel’s first pole position since Brazil 2013 also snapped a qualifying dry spell for Ferrari stretching back to Germany 2012.

The result gives Vettel a great chance of victory in Sunday’s race in Singapore, where five of seven previous races have been won by the pole-sitter.

Mercedes have been slow all week so far but any thoughts they were bluffing evaporated in a difficult session for the championship pace-setters.

Hamilton was briefly quickest in Q1 but he was otherwise not in the reckoning, and had to pit in Q3 when his underbody was damaged by scraping a kerb.

The Briton enjoys a 53-point lead in the standings but he will be stricken after losing the chance to equal Ayrton Senna’s record of eight pole positions in a row.

Hamilton will also have to fight past both Red Bulls and both Ferraris if he wants to match his boyhood idol’s career tally of 41 wins from 161 races on Sunday.

“I thought they were playing a few card games yesterday but it’s obvious they’re not particularly comfortable this weekend,” Ricciardo said.

Kvyat led Q1 but McLaren’s Jenson Button scraped into Q2 by just 74 thousandths of a second when he secured 15th quickest in the first qualifying session.

Button’s last-gasp time knocked Sauber’s Felipe Nasr out of the running with Marcus Ericsson, Pastor Maldonado, Will Stevens and American debutant Alexander Rossi also missing out.

Carlos Sainz effectively brought Q2 to a close when he hit a wall late in the session, leaving bodywork on the track and bringing out the yellow flags ordering cars to slow down.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Button were among the five denied a spot in the top-10 shoot-out, alongside Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Sainz.

Monza leaves glass half full for Ferrari boss

September 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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The glass was half full for Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene after Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, even if Kimi Raikkonen filled it almost to the brim before sloshing the contents around.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in action. Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch ZweiLivepic

With Sebastian Vettel taking second place in his first race in Italy in red Ferrari overalls, the home team could hold their heads high even if they never came close to catching Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

Raikkonen, Ferrari's 2007 world champion, had outqualified Vettel and started on the front row to the delight of a legion of tifosi — including Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne.

Then it all went wrong.

The Finn was left standing as everyone else pulled away, cars veering around him to the left and right, before getting going and entering the first corner in last place.

He ended up fifth after a strong fightback, helped by a rare Mercedes engine failure that denied Nico Rosberg a place on the podium.

Ferrari remained second overall in the constructors' championship, with Mercedes disappearing into the distance.

"Yesterday, Kimi had done a great qualifying and we were all pleased," said Arrivabene. "Today he got, most probably, messed up a bit, we need still to check but most probably messed up a bit with the finger (in releasing the clutch).

"But during the race he overtook many, many other cars and his race was fantastic I have to say."

So too was Vettel's race, with the four times world champion thrilled to be back on the Monza podium and in front of the heaving wave of cheering fans spilling out of the stands onto the pit straight.

"It’s the best second place I ever had. The emotions on the podium are incredible," the German told reporters.

"If we take this (circuit) away from the calendar for any… money reasons I think you are basically ripping our hearts out."

The circuit, which has hosted races since the 1920s and featured on the calendar in every season but one since the world championship started in 1950, faces an uncertain future with its current contract ending next year.

Raikkonen, a fan favourite, said he had never experienced a start problem like Sunday's before and had not done anything different to usual.

"Obviously it's not ideal," said the Finn with his usual understatement. "You’re in a good position for the start and then after a few seconds we were last so the front row didn’t help us a lot did it?

"The weekend has been good apart from that issue and then obviously its fine to get back to fifth, when you start from second place, with that kind of start."

Ferrari blame wheel nut for Vettel’s missed podium

June 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari blamed a wheelnut for robbing Sebastian Vettel of a podium appearance at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday and said it must not happen again.

Ferrari Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany looks into his car after the Austrian F1 Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/VALDRIN XHEMAJ/POOL

With Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne watching, Vettel pitted in the lead — after the dominant Mercedes drivers had already stopped — and lost an agonising amount of time as mechanics wrestled to remove the right rear wheel.

Vettel rejoined in fourth place and was unable to get back in front of Felipe Massa’s Williams for what would have been the German’s sixth podium finish in eight races for the Italian team.

“We got the problem with the wheelnut and it’s not the first time so we have to make sure that it does not happen again,” Ferrari principal Maurizio Arrivabene told reporters.

“It was not a problem of the mechanics, it was our problem and we have to make sure we fix it.

“Sebastian made a very good race but we threw away the podium one more time for a stupid piece that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. For me it is not acceptable,” he emphasised.

Vettel, the four-times Formula One champion who joined from Red Bull at the end of last season, remained third overall in the championship with his team mate Kimi Raikkonen the big loser after crashing out on the opening lap.

“The issue during the pit-stop is something that can happen: I had a problem, but generally the guys are the quickest on the pit lane so there’s nobody to blame,” Vettel said.

“We are a team and when you push to the limit these things can occur.

“Today was a bit disappointing because we’ve lost the podium, but I’m sure tomorrow it will be better and we’ll focus on the next race.”

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