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GUTIERREZ CLOSE TO REVEALING FUTURE F1 PLANS

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Former Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez is reportedly close to announcing his plans for the 2016 Formula 1 season.
This year, after the Mexican lost his Sauber race seat, he signed up to be Ferrari’s reserve driver.
And now it is reported the 24-year-old’s next step could be to the new Ferrari-linked American entrant Haas, backed by his powerful Mexican sponsors.
Gutierrez wrote on Facebook: “This weekend I had an important meeting which will have a big repercussion in my professional life.
“Nothing that comes in my way will stop me, neither will change the person who I have the fortune of being,” he added.
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Another season ahead, will it be better than the last? I'm certainly hoping there will be less politics involved but that's just wishful thinking! Perhaps I will post less on such issues moving forwa

Bernie's really damaging the sport. He's so far behind the times it's impossible to listen to anything he has to say. Just looking at the way other sports leagues have grown over the past 20 years com

I disagree Massa only had one line to of the pits Hulkenburg saw him and could have avoided the contact and still passed Massa as he was on cold tyres. Good race though

VERSTAPPEN SIDES WITH PIRELLI OVER VETTEL BLOWOUT

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Father and son Jos and Max Verstappen have sided with Pirelli over the Belgian Grand Prix tyre blowout saga.
While F1’s official supplier has said Ferrari took too big a risk with an ambitious one-stop strategy at Spa-Francorchamps, Sebastian Vettel lashed out angrily at the quality of Pirelli’s tyres.
But Toro Rosso driver Max told Austrian television Servus TV: “A one-stop strategy by Ferrari was a huge risk. Myself, I stopped three times.”
And the teenage Dutchman’s father Jos, himself a former F1 driver, also commented: “I have the impression that Vettel’s problem was different to that of [Nico] Rosberg’s.
“Vettel drove a lot of laps on that set, which is obviously more risky. We are now going to Monza where the speeds are even higher, but I do believe that Ferrari simply kept Vettel on those tyres for too long.”
Rookie teenager Verstappen is not a member of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, who have expressed concern about the incidents in Belgium.
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HARTSTEIN QUESTIONS CREDENTIALS OF CURRENT F1 DOCTOR

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Ex-Formula 1 doctor Gary Hartstein has continued his attack on his successor, Jean-Charles Piette.
Following the death of Jules Bianchi, Hartstein hit out at F1 drivers who are accepting the current situation, with Piette the medical delegate and the “even more clueless” Gerard Saillant running the FIA’s medical commission.
He said Piette was “responsible for the disastrous land-based evacuation” of the unconscious Bianchi at Suzuka last October, and believes the FIA could now be “liable” for the Frenchman’s death.
Now, Hartstein has told a Spanish website that Piette is not suitably trained for the job, “That’s right. He is a doctor, but he has no experience in trauma. And before reaching Formula 1 he had never been to a race as a doctor.”
And the American, an anaesthesiologist, claims Piette was chosen as his successor even though there was “no selection process whatsoever”.
“The racing world is very small, in the end we all know one another, but I had never heard of this man. Saillant, Piette and [FIA president Jean] Todt are all friends, so why not give your friend one of the best jobs in the world?” said Hartstein.
“What upset me was not that I lost my job, but that they chose someone who was not prepared for such a serious task,” he added.
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MCLAREN PREVIEW THE ITALIAN GRAND PRIX

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The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is one of the most iconic racetracks on the Formula 1 calendar. It was built in 1922 and has staged more world championship grands prix than any other circuit in the world. Only once, in 1980, has the circuit not been on the F1 calendar.
Up until the early ’60s, racing took place on a fearsome six-mile oval. But the death of Wolfgang von Trips and 15 spectators in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix resulted in future races taking place on a shorter road course, with the last true ‘slipstreaming’ battle taking place in 1971, after which chicanes were installed to slow the cars.
The track is still the fastest in Formula 1, with today’s cars exceeding 200mph (322km/h) on four occasions around the lap. The average speed is in excess of 150mph (241km/h), so the teams use one-off low-downforce aerodynamic packages to maximise straight-line speed. However, braking stability is important: there are a total of six braking events around the lap and on two occasions the cars slow from 200mph (322km/h) to 50mph (80km/h) in just two seconds.
There are two DRS zones; the first is on the start-finish straight and the second on the approach to Turn Eight, the Ascari chicane. But overtaking remains difficult because the impact of DRS is less at Monza than at other racetracks, due to the small rear wings being used by the cars. In fact, statistically, pole position is more important at Monza than it is at Monaco.
Pirelli is taking softer tyres to the race than was the case last year. The Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) compounds will be used next weekend, as opposed to Medium and Hard in 2014, and this could result in more varied strategies than the traditional one-stop races that have prevailed in recent years.
McLaren has an enviable record at Monza. The team has won the race on 10 occasions, most recently in 2012, and both of our current drivers have good records at the track. Fernando Alonso has won twice before, while Jenson Button has finished on the podium on four occasions.
Fernando Alonso: “Monza is completely unique – a fantastic circuit, so much history, great fans, and huge fun to drive. It’s always special to go there year after year to experience the atmosphere, and the way the car feels when you drive on that track is completely different to any other.
“I have won at Monza twice in my career – once with McLaren in 2007 – and both times were incredibly special. For this race we have to manage our own expectations, as we know it won’t suit our car.
“It will be tough, but we’ll still push hard as usual, learn as much as we can about our package, and work on our low-downforce configuration to try and get as much as we can out of the weekend.”
Jenson Button: “Monza is a very special racetrack. It’s fast and furious, and the car feels quite different to drive in low-downforce specification. The track layout won’t necessarily play to the strengths of the McLaren-Honda package, but it’s a race in which anything can happen.”
Jonathan Neale, chief operating officer and acting CEO: “Monza is a demanding racetrack for several reasons. It’s hard on the brakes, it’s hard on the power units and it’s hard on the drivers, due to the high top speeds.
“The first practice session on Friday is important for the drivers’ confidence because the cars feel very skittish when they are producing so little downforce and drag. It’s a big challenge for them to adapt to the feel of the cars and they don’t have long to get used to it because they’ve really got to nail it during qualifying on Saturday afternoon.”
Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda: “Firstly, on behalf of everyone at McLaren-Honda, we extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Justin Wilson at this incredibly difficult time. He was not only a much-loved member of the Formula 1 and motorsport community, but also well-known to many members of our team, and the tragic news of his passing puts all of our racing activities into sharp perspective. Rest in peace, Justin.
“As we move our thoughts to Monza, the race which marks the end of the European leg of the season, it’s often a good opportunity to look further ahead to the end of the season and the final fly-away races of the year. It’s certainly been a tough year for McLaren-Honda so far, but we’re continuing to fight with our heads held high.
“Spa was a particularly unflattering race for our package, which disappointingly masked many signs of progress we were hoping to see after the summer break. However, we always knew Spa would be one of, if not the, most challenging grand prix of the season, and we were certainly proved right. On the other hand, we also took some positives from the weekend and we’re working hard to ensure we achieve the same consistent tyre performance and improved car balance that we saw in Spa-Francorchamps.
“In terms of Monza’s characteristics, it’s another high-speed, low downforce track, and a unique challenge, with long straights and heavy braking. For this reason, we expect this race will be difficult for us in similar ways to Spa, but our aim is to finish the race with both cars and learn as much as we can from the weekend in anticipation of Singapore and beyond, where we’re hopeful of demonstrating improved pace. In Monza, the passionate fans and incredible atmosphere that are always guaranteed there will surely provide us with a fantastic weekend of racing on this legendary circuit.”
Yasuhisa Arai, Chief Officer of Motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd: “Monza is another high-speed track which unfortunately does not suit our package. The drivers are on full throttle for most of the lap due to the long straights and fast corners, and since maximum power and minimal drag are key we know we have a big challenge ahead of us this weekend.
“We know we still have a lot of work to do, but we also know we’re heading in the right direction to start achieving our goals. As always, the team will continue to work tirelessly, and we will remain determined and focused on the job at hand.”
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Sainz stays positive despite bad luck

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The frustration is starting to build for Carlos Sainz after four consecutive retirements, but the Spaniard is determined to bounce back at Monza.
Sainz has impressed during his rookie season as he finished in the points in four of his first seven races, but things haven't gone his way recently as he has had four DNFs in his last four grands prix through no fault of his own.
Despite his recent woes, the 21-year-old has vowed to keep his chin up.
"It's obviously a big frustration, four consecutive races in the points, four consecutive retirements," he is quoted as saying by Autosport.
"Austria I was P9 when I retired, Silverstone P8, Hungary P5 or P6, and Belgium I started P10, and with everything that happened, without doing nothing special, I would have finished P7.
"When things like this happen you need to stay positive, think that at least in my rookie season these retirements are not coming from me, just things that have nothing to do with me.
"But it's another missed opportunity, so as you can imagine, big frustration for me already.
"At the end it will just make me stronger, character building as you say in your language, and we'll come back stronger in Monza [for the Italian Grand Prix]."
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Vettel: I can't wait for Italian GP

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He has already tasted success three times at the Italian GP, but this year's race at Monza will be "even more special" for Sebastian Vettel.
The Italian track has a special place in the four-time World Champion's heart as he won his maiden race as a Formula 1 driver there with Toro Rosso back in 2008 while he was also victorious with Red Bull in 2011 and 2013.
He will be hoping for more of the same this weekend as it will be first-ever race as a Ferrari driver at their home venue.
"Naturally, I’ve got a whole load of great memories and feelings linked to Monza and I always like coming here," he told Ferrari.com. "And being here with Ferrari makes it even more special.
"It’s not a demanding track physically, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple: you have to look after the brake system, because the long straights mean you reach the braking areas at high speed.
"The track characteristics require a low aerodynamic downforce set-up and this makes the car harder to drive. I am curious to see what it will be like driving at this track, partly because this year’s power unit is more powerful and also because I’m looking forward to meeting all our fans: I can’t wait."
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The Italian GP timetable

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The Italian Grand Prix, which takes place at the high-speed Monza circuit, marks the 85th running of the event and is also the 12th race on the 2015 calendar.
All times are local (Italy is GMT 2)
Thursday 3 September
15:00 - 16:00: FIA press conference
Friday 4 September
10:00 - 11:30: First free practice
14:00 - 15:30: Second free practice
16:00: FIA press conference
Saturday 5 September
11:00 - 12:00: Third free practice
14:00 - 15:00: Qualifying
15:00: FIA post-qualifying press conference
Sunday 6 September
14:00 - 16:00: Italian GP
16:00: FIA post-race press conference
Italian GP Info
No of Laps: 53
Race Distance: 306.720
Lap Record: 1:21.046 - Rubens Barrichello (2004)
2014 Winner: L Hamilton (Mercedes)
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Lotus confirms F1 trucks are on way to Monza

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Lotus eased concerns about its short-term future in Formula 1 on Tuesday after confirming its trucks were en route to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
Speculation about the outfit has intensified dramatically over recent days, with the race team in a financial holding pattern as its owners await confirmation from Renault about potential takeover plans
Renault is eyeing taking on a majority stake in the team as part of a move that will bring about the return of a full works team for the French car manufacturer, but there are still big financial hurdles to overcome.
The uncertainty about where Lotus is heading in the long term is delivering headaches for it in the short term, however, as the Enstone-based team's owners have put a hold on investment.
Creditors list
The situation has meant development work has all but stopped, a number of bills have gone unpaid and it has been unable to shore up longer-term financial commitments that would generate much-needed cashflow.
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone even revealed to The Times on Tuesday that he had helped fund a shortfall in cash that was needed to pay staff.
He told the newspaper: “I thought I should cover the wages of the people there to make sure they were all right and so that Lotus would at least get to Spa and, hopefully, to Italy.
“But they really need to make progress with Renault now to make sure everything is OK.”
Going legal
With the creditors list growing, matters have started getting more serious.
In Hungary, Pirelli refused to release its tyres to Lotus until just before first practice due to an outstanding bill.
There were also dramatic scenes at the Belgian Grand Prix where, just hours after Romain Grosjean took a podium finish, bailiffs arrived and refused to let the team's trucks leave as part of a dispute with former test driver Charles Pic.
Lotus chiefs appears to have reached a compromise on that legal matter in the short term, however, and the team confirmed on Tuesday that it was clear to compete in Italy – and its trucks were on their way.
It is hoped that a clearer picture of Renault's plans will emerge this week, and when that is resolved it will likely have a knock-on impact on the French car manufacturer's 2016 engine plans with Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
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Not too late to save Monza GP, says Italian motorsport chief

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Italy's motorsport boss said on Tuesday that he was hopeful Monza could still put together a deal to save the Italian Grand Prix, as the country's prime minster was poised to get involved in discussions.
With Monza's current race deal running out at the end of next year, there has been little progress in sorting out a contract extension amid ongoing scepticism from Bernie Ecclestone that the race can be saved.
Those delays have prompted the Formula 1 supremo to say several times that he was doubtful the event will remain on the calendar.
As recently as the Belgian GP, Ecclestone said: "I don't know about Monza at the moment. I have got meetings there in September, so we will see.
"I hope we don't lose it, but I think there is a good chance we will."
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Ongoing optimism
During a press conference in Milan on Tuesday attended by senior race figures, Angelo Sticchi Damiani, the boss of Italian motorsport federation, the ACI, said he still had reason to believe matters could move forwards.
"Monza must overcome the situation that we all know well," said Sticchi Damiani. "I think with a bit of optimism, there are opportunities for this to happen.
"The important thing is that we all work together: knowing that there is interest from all levels of the government – from the [national] government to that of the Lombardy Region, which has demonstrated that in practical terms. And let's not forget the towns of Milan and Monza.
"Now the good intentions must be translated into concrete action."
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Government help
The Lombardy Region has offered assistance in relation to a revamp of the infrastructure, but it cannot provide any financial help in terms of the race hosting fee.
However, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi is set to attend this weekend's race at Monza and is likely to join in discussions with Ecclestone about how to save the event.
Ecclestone has been clear for some time that he is not chasing a big money deal – but just wants Italy to pay the same as other European venues.
"They don't have to give any more than other people," explained Ecclestone. "We just want the same."
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Hulkenberg decision a boost for Haas contenders

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Nico Hulkenberg's decision to remain at Force India in Formula 1 is not only good news for his Force India bosses, but will be welcomed by a number of other drivers who were battling him for race seats elsewhere.

The growing competitiveness of Hulkenberg's current team, which briefly led the Belgian Grand Prix for a few metres, meant it was increasingly likely that the German would stay on board.
The downside for him of taking up an offer to go with Haas for 2016 was that its competitiveness is so hard to predict right now – and it has been clear how much F1's most recent new teams have struggled.
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Search for experience
Yet, although Haas may be disappointed to lose out on the man that it had put at the top of its wishlist, for the men who were vying Hulkenberg for a seat at the new American team it is good news.
There is no shortage of candidates willing to throw their lot in with Haas, but Hulkenberg's experience and talent were always going to make him a strong contender.
With him out of the equation, it now appears that the best option for the team is picking out drivers who missed out on race seats this year but come with plenty of speed.
The three leading contenders are Esteban Gutierrez, Kevin Magnussen and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Gutierrez, with his strong Ferrari links and Mexican backing, has long been considered a shoe-in for one of the seats.
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Important meeting
He posted an intriguing comment on his Instagram account on Sunday suggesting he had made a big decision in Paris.
"This weekend I had an important meeting which will have a big repercussion in my professional life," he said. "Nothing that comes in my way will stop me, neither will change the person who I have the fortune of being."
Was this Renault related, a Haas meeting or something outside of F1 completely?
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For Magnussen and Vergne, their experience with good teams in F1, allied to obvious speed, make them equally attractive – and perhaps Haas' best options if it sees through on its desire to want battle-hardened F1 drivers for its debut.
The pair will certainly not be unhappy about Hulkenberg's decision to remain where he is for now.
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Wolff wary of downsides of Red Bull tie-up

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits that the potential downsides for his team of a future engine partnership with Red Bull are still dominating his thoughts.

Red Bull has set its sights on landing a Mercedes customer engine contract for 2016, and wants to get out of the final year of its contract with Renault.
Matters are expected to move on quickly, with Renault closing in on a final decision about its long term strategy for F1 as it ponders the return of a works effort.
But although there are suggestions Mercedes' senior road car management can see the attraction of tapping into the exposure and new marketing opportunities offered by a Red Bull partnership, it is also clear that there are fears it could open the door to the team knocking the German car manufacturer off the top of the grid.
Speaking at Brisighella in Italy where, on behalf of his Mercedes team, Wolff collected the Lorenzo Bandini Trophy, he said he was cautious about the Red Bull situation.
"If I judge it from the perspective of our team, it is an agreement that you should not do," said Wolff.
"Our car and our successes are the result of hard work and huge investment from Daimler.
"We built our supremacy, while today there is a team that has decided that they do not want to stay with their partners. It is a different philosophy to ours.
"Nothing has happened yet, because we do not look so much at the possible benefits of the deal, as to the negative arguments that are likely to be more for our team."
Engine situation complicated
The 2016 engine situation should become clearer as soon as Renault has announced what its long-term plan in F1 is. That could come as early as this weekend.
It is eyeing a takeover of Lotus in a move that could pre-empt a split with Red Bull's teams. The only other option for the teams if Mercedes does not then do a deal is with Ferrari.
Mercedes may ultimately feel that a supply deal with Manor – which is evaluating its engine options for 2016 – may be better in not risking damaging its own success in F1.
It could also open the door for a race seat for Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein, who the German car manufacturer wants to be competing in F1 next season.
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Italian GP - The team point of view

The Scuderia point of view about the next Formula One World Championship at Monza, the team’s home race.

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Italian GP - An exciting weekend

This weekend’s Italian Grand Prix will be Sebastian Vettel’s first appearance as a Scuderia Ferrari driver at the team’s home race. “Naturally, I’ve got a whole load of great memories and feelings linked to Monza and I always like coming here,” the German driver told ferrari.com. “And being here with Ferrari makes it even more special”.

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Lewis Hamilton 2015 Italian Grand Prix Preview, with Allianz

"Real car control and confidence: this is a track where the most confident braker generally wins.” MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team Driver Lewis Hamilton chats about the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. The 2014 FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Champion shows you the most crucial parts of the track in the simulator.

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F1 Italian Grand Prix: Rosberg turns focus to qualifying and starts

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Nico Rosberg says he will focus primarily on his single lap pace and his race starts at the Italian Grand Prix in his increasingly desperate bid to stop Lewis Hamilton from moving closer to a third Formula 1 world title.
After losing out to Hamilton in qualifying for the tenth time this season in Belgium, a poor start compounded that disadvantage as the defending champion's sixth win of the year saw him increase his margin over Rosberg to 28 points.
Having become a new father to a daughter in the break between races, Rosberg admits he will need to pay particular attention to his qualifying efforts and his starts if he is to still be considered a threat for the title.
“The race in Spa was definitely disappointing,” he said. “My start was not good so I need to work on that and also on finding those extra tenths in qualifying to get back on top there. I know I have the car underneath me to get pole and the win every time with this incredible machine the team have built, so nothing less will do.
“Monza is next and I can't wait to try out this season's Silver Arrow there. I'm sure it will suit our car and it's a circuit I really enjoy, so all the ingredients are there for a strong weekend. I'm sure the Tifosi will want a red car to be on the top step but, whatever the result, you know they will create an unbelievable atmosphere.
“Standing on the podium last year was a great experience and the target is to be one step higher this time around.”
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F1 Italian Grand Prix: Sauber confident for competitive Monza weekend

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Sauber's Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson believe the newly-upgraded Sauber will work better at the Italian Grand Prix as the team looks to keep its points ticking over.
Following an indifferent first run for the revised Sauber – complete with updated Ferrari engine – at Spa-Francorchamps, the Swiss team is expecting the high-speed Monza circuit to prove a better suit for the changes.
With Marcus Ericsson scoring in both Hungary and Belgium, he is looking to keep up his solid run of recent pace in Italy.
“Monza is the fastest on the calendar, and I am curious about the top speed on the straights with the modified engine.
“It is important to have a high straight-line speed, and to be fast through the chicanes. We need to find a compromise with the downforce level giving us a high straight-line speed, but also finding the right set-up for a stable car.”
Similarly, team-mate Felipe Nasr is eager to use this weekend to get back into the top ten for the first time since Monaco.
“I am looking forward to driving the circuit again, and it will be my first time there in a Formula One car. The high-speed track should suit our car well.
“We need to find an efficient balance for being fast on the straights and not losing too much time in the corners. A good braking stability, as well as traction for coming out of the chicanes, is important.”
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Renault talks leave Lotus F1 team in PDVSA invoice hold-up

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The Lotus Formula 1 team's current financial crisis stems from it being unable to invoice key sponsor PDVSA due to ongoing negotiations with Renault, AUTOSPORT has learned.
Lotus's board is this week due to accept an offer from Renault of £65million for a 65 per cent stake in the Enstone-based organisation following a highly-successful presentation meeting between the parties held on Monday.
The takeover will end the uncertainty surrounding the debt-ridden team, which was last under Renault ownership in 2010, and guarantee the futures of the 400 staff.
The last few months have been particularly troubling as the team has effectively been in a state of financial lockdown due to a period of due diligence on the deal.
Following the Belgian Grand Prix Lotus's trackside director of operations Alan Permane remarked: "This is the worst season we've had financially, no doubt.
"We've had to scrimp and scrape for parts, and to get the parts on the track is a massive effort each week."
It was at Spa the team's cars and equipment were impounded post-race by local court-appointed bailiffs due to a dispute with former reserve Charles Pic.
The team has also faced winding-up petitions in the High Court of late following claims by a number of creditors.
Lotus is currently sitting on a $50million (£32.5m) invoice to PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil and gas giant, for the services of Pastor Maldonado.
PDVSA pays the money in advance in late July/early August ahead of Maldonado's drive the following year.
But despite the fact the 30-year-old has a contract for 2016, the Renault takeover means his future is uncertain at this stage, and so the invoice has been put on hold.
Without the money from PDVSA for Maldonado, Lotus has been unable to pay its bills or invest in the development of the car, which still scored a superb third at Spa with Romain Grosjean at the wheel.
Renault is evaluating its driver options and is first looking to speak to PDVSA and Total, Grosjean's primary backer, before committing to either man.
It is believed Grosjean will ultimately be retained, while it is likely Renault will honour Maldonado's deal for 2016, with an option for '17.
Renault has aided Lotus's cause in part by opting not to take money owed to it by the team following the termination last year of the engine supply deal.
As per the penalty clauses, Lotus has been paying a set sum of money to Renault per month, a figure deducted from the monthly income received from Formula One Management's prize fund based on the previous year's championship standings.
With Renault appreciating the fact its stance on Maldonado has placed Lotus in an awkward financial position until the completion of the takeover, the penalty payments have been suspended.
Lotus has also confirmed that its trucks have departed for this weekend's Italian Grand Prix as scheduled.
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FIA's Charlie Whiting happy with Baku F1 grand prix track progress

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FIA technical director Charlie Whiting has been left impressed by the seriousness of the developers of the Baku street circuit ahead of the city's Formula 1 debut next year.
The Azerbaijan capital will host the European Grand Prix on July 17 2016, becoming F1's third pure street venue alongside Singapore and Monaco.
There remain numerous logistical hurdles to overcome and for Whiting to oversee before he can give it the green light, but he is happy with progress so far.
"I had a meeting with Hermann Tilke [circuit designer] in Belgium and apparently it's all good," Whiting told AUTOSPORT.
"It's not like a normal track being constructed, of course, because it is a proper, pure street circuit.
"There are a few worrying points they are doing their best to overcome, but it's going pretty much as planned I would say.
"Next month they will be starting on the resurfacing that is necessary, and stuff like that.
"They are taking it all very seriously."
Whiting is planning on his next visit being in early January when he will be able to assess the progress being made, in particular with regard to a few key hurdles.
"There have been lots of little bits and pieces which require civil works before they start building the track itself," added Whiting.
"They've had to change a lot of pavements, walls, and stuff like that, as they've had to move them out of the way to get a better trajectory into a corner and for the run-off areas.
"But from what I can gather they're doing a good job."
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F1 DRIVER MARKET CLOSING UP: ALL EYES NOW ON JENSON BUTTON AND KEVIN MAGNUSSEN

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As the final pieces of the F1 grid for 2016 begin to fall into place, with the confirmations of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, all eyes are now on the McLaren pair Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.
Magnussen, who raced for McLaren in 2014, was demoted to reserve driver for this season with the arrival of Fernando Alonso in an 11th hour decision before the start of the season, that split the shareholders and management of the team.
For 2016, McLaren has three options: retain Button, restore Magnussen or promote their other young protege Stoffel Vandoorne, who is dominating the GP2 series, much as their former protege Lewis Hamilton did in 2006.
Button is by far the most expensive option and with no clear prospect of a title sponsor for the team and with McLaren Honda’s disappointing performance in 2015 likely to lead to a significant drop in prize money income, there is speculation that Button would have to accept a cut in salary to continue.
He will have to take a view on that and whether he believes that Honda will be able to make meaningful progress in 2016 or whether he would be making up the numbers again.
Button had been linked to a move to Williams if Valtteri Bottas replaced Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, but with the 2007 world champions staying put, it seems unlikely that Bottas will leave Williams after all.
Vandoorne currently leads the GP2 standings by 105 points and has taken five wins; all of them feature races, so far this season.
The Belgian driver clearly needs an opportunity to race in F1 and if it doesn’t come at McLaren it needs to come from somewhere else. But he has time on his side and could wait to see what happens with Button. If it’s anything like last time, the decision from McLaren will come very late. They can afford to play that game.
Magnussen cannot. After a year on the sidelines, the Dane needs to race in 2016 and as the doors are now closing, he needs to do a deal in the next few weeks.

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Magnussen recently said there would be “no way in hell” he would not be racing in 2016 – although he admitted that could be in another category if no opportunities open up in Formula 1.
His best chance looks to be the new Haas F1 team, which is starting in F1 next season. The word in F1 is that they have already agreed with their technical partner Ferrari to take reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez for one of the seats. But they would like another experienced driver for the other seat or an American if one fits the bill. Alex Rossi is doing well in GP2 this season and is eligible for a super licence, while Magnussen has podium winning pedigree and the record of having out qualified Button across the 2014 season by around 0.15s on average.
He was described by one team boss in the Spa paddock as a ‘sleeper’ in the driver market.
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Now that Haas’ prime target Nico Hulkenberg has committed to Force India for another two seasons. Magnussen is close to the front of the queue for the drive and would be an ideal candidate as he is not only a fast benchmark for the developing team, but also speaks a high standard of English in a way that Americans and their sponsors would understand, which is important. He scored a podium on debut and generally performed well in a difficult McLaren chassis last year.
Magnussen said last week, “There will not be one more year without racing – no way in hell. I’ll stay for one year like this and then hopefully something will happen [in F1], and if not you’ll have to move on and do something else.
“If I don’t get a [race] drive then I might do something else and if I can be reserve driver as well then that’ll be good. But I hope that’s not going to be it – I hope to be back in Formula 1 next year.”
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McLaren were recently forced to deny rumours that Vandoorne had already been signed to partner Alonso in 2016, but it seems unlikely he won’t be on the F1 grid one way or another next year.
Renault’s uncertain F1 future is another interesting twist in the F1 driver market. If the French manufacturer does go ahead and buy the Enstone-based Lotus team and return to manufacturer status, it could put Pastor Maldonado’s place with the team in jeopardy.
Sauber has already tied up its two drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, so the doors are closing fast for drivers wanting to get a place on the F1 grid for 2016.
MIKA: Unfortunately I think Button will get the flick... :(
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WHO CAN CATCH HAMILTON AT THE TEMPLE OF SPEED?

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New father Nico Rosberg has plenty to be happy about right now but Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton intends to be smiling just as much after this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Sunday’s race, at a super-fast track that faces an uncertain future despite its historic status as a temple to Ferrari, could see Hamilton accelerate ever closer to his third Formula One world championship.
“At the moment it doesn’t look like it is possible to beat Hamilton,” said retired triple champion Niki Lauda after the Briton won last month’s Belgian Grand Prix to go 28 points clear of Rosberg with eight races remaining.
“If Lewis does not make a mistake in the next couple of races, it will be hard for Nico,” said the Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman.
A dramatic, high-speed blowout in practice at Spa, coupled with a similar one on race day for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, did little for Rosberg’s peace of mind ahead of the birth of his daughter last Sunday.
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Any sleepless nights since then will have been more to do with his home life, however, with Pirelli’s post-Belgium enquiry expected to exonerate their tyres from any structural failure.
Safety will still be a prime concern at the fastest track on the calendar, with the paddock community mourning the death in America last week of British IndyCar driver and former F1 racer Justin Wilson.
Vettel, furious after his scare at Spa, will be setting his sights on coming back with a different kind of bang in his first race at Monza in Ferrari’s red overalls.
A victory in front of the passionate home fans, at the circuit where he took his first F1 victory with Toro Rosso in 2008, would make Vettel the first since Stirling Moss in the 1950s to win the Italian Grand Prix with three different teams.
The four times champion cannot be ruled out, with Ferrari likely to be Mercedes’ closest rivals given that Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat are expected to take engine penalties, but Hamilton remains the clear favourite.
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Last year he won from pole position and set the fastest lap at Monza before going on to win six of the last seven races and take his second title.
This time, he arrives on the back of 10 poles in 11 races and six wins to Rosberg’s three.
If he wins at Monza on Sunday for the third time in his career, Hamilton will become the first driver to take successive Italian Grand Prix victories since his compatriot Damon Hill with Williams in 1994.
Monza’s own future will also be in the spotlight, with the circuit still to agree a new contract after 2016 and more talks with commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone sure to take place over the weekend.
For Hamilton, as much as any Formula 1 fan, a calendar without Monza would be unthinkable.
“It’s an awesome track — so fast and with some of the most passionate fans you’ll see anywhere in the world,” said the Mercedes driver. “Racing in Italy brings back a lot of good memories for me and I’d love to add to those this weekend.”
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Italian Grand Prix Facts & Stats

  • Lap distance: 5.793km. Total distance: 306.72km (53 laps)
  • Race lap record: Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari, one minute 21.046 seconds (2004)
  • 2014 pole: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:24.109
  • 2014 winner: Hamilton
  • Start time: 1200 GMT (1400 local)
  • Tyres: Medium (white), Soft (yellow)
  • Mercedes have had seven one-two finishes this season and won nine of 11 races. Double world champion Hamilton has won six.
  • Four-times champion Sebastian Vettel has 41 career wins, Hamilton is on 39 and Fernando Alonso 32. Kimi Raikkonen has won 20 races, Jenson Button 15 and Rosberg 11.
  • Ferrari have won 223 races, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 50. Mercedes have won 38.
  • McLaren have not won for 49 races, a run that dates back to Brazil 2012 and is the team’s worst since they went 53 races without a win between the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix and 1981 British GP.
  • Mercedes have been on pole for the last 22 races. The record for successive poles is 24 (Williams 1992-93).
  • Hamilton has been on pole in 10 of 11 races this season, including the last six in a row, and has already clinched the 2015 pole trophy. The Briton has 48 career poles, Rosberg 16.
  • Hamilton can also take his 19th successive front row start and move closer to the record of 24 set by his great boyhood hero Ayrton Senna.
  • Rosberg took 11 poles last year, when Mercedes and Williams were the only teams to start on pole. The last non-Mercedes pole was Austria, 2014.
  • Ferrari’s last pole was in Germany with Alonso in 2012.
  • Nine drivers from five teams have appeared on the podium this season — Hamilton, Rosberg (Mercedes), Vettel, Raikkonen (Ferrari), Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa (Williams), Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus).
  • Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel have shared the podium in six races.
  • Hamilton has 80 career podiums, the same as Senna.
  • Hamilton leads Rosberg by 28 points.
  • Vettel’s tyre failure in Belgium ended a run of 21 successive races in the points. The record of 27 is held by Ferrari team mate Raikkonen.
  • The winner at Monza has ended the season as champion in three of the last four years (Hamilton being the exception in 2012) but only five of the last 15.
  • Vettel can become only the second driver, and first since Britain’s Stirling Moss in the 1950s, to win at Monza with three different teams. He has done so previously with Toro Rosso (2008) and Red Bull (2011 and 2013).
  • The last driver to win at Monza two years in a row was Hamilton’s compatriot Damon Hill in 1993-94.
  • The Italian and British Grands Prix are the only ones to have featured every year since the championship started in 1950.
  • The Italian race has always been staged at Monza, with one exception – at Imola in 1980.
  • Monza is the quickest track on the calendar and holds the record for Formula One’s fastest lap, an average of 262.242 kph set by Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya before qualifying in 2004.
  • The race has been won from pole position eight times in the last 10 years.
  • Michael Schumacher won a record five times at Monza, all with Ferrari — who have 18 wins at the track, more than any other team.
  • Ferrari marked their 900th Grand Prix at Spa, while Vettel made his 150th start.
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RENZI TO ECCLESTONE: HANDS OFF THE GRAND PRIX AT MONZA!

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The big guns are now firing over the question of historic Monza’s future on the Formula 1 world championship calendar.
With a contract beyond 2016 still not agreed between organisers of the fabled race at the Autodromo Nazionale and Bernie Ecclestone, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi weighed into the story on Wednesday.
“Formula 1 thrives not only on money, but also symbols,” Renzi, who is expected to attend Sunday’s race, told Italian radio RTL 102.5.
“We will tell Bernie Ecclestone clearly, ‘Hands off the grand prix at Monza!'” he insisted.
For now, however, F1 supremo Ecclestone is holding firm that the days of subsidised fees for one of the iconic venues on the calendar are over.
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“For 2016, the grand prix is secured in Monza, but not for the future,” the Briton told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He dismissed the news that thousands have signed petitions, insisting that “collecting signatures is easy”.
“They have to sign the contract,” said Ecclestone. “I am happy to do it if the people at Monza want to as well. For years, those at the Autodromo have done as they wanted. This model no longer works. The world has changed.”
Monza is popularly known ‘La Pista Magica’ is a temple of Italian motorsport and all things Ferrari. One of the oldest, dating back to the 1920s, and remains the fastest circuit in F1.
Over the years the circuit near Milan has entrenched itself in the folklore of motorsport and every Italian Grand Prix since 1950 has been held at the venue except in 1980, when it was held at Imola, while Monza underwent a major upgrade.
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LOTUS HEAD FOR MONZA HOPING FOR GOOD NEWS

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The Lotus trucks were heading to Monza on Tuesday as the financially-troubled Formula 1 team moved to calm fears they might not make it to this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Despite the positive news, confirmed by a spokesman, the British-based team still face an uncertain future with their longer-term hopes seemingly pinned on former owners Renault riding to the rescue.
Speculation about the team’s survival has grown since last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, where bailiffs moved to impound the cars after Frenchman Romain Grosjean had finished a strong third.
That intervention was a result of legal action taken by former reserve driver Charles Pic for an alleged breach of contract.
Lotus also had a problem paying for their tyres before Friday practice in Hungary, after seeing off a winding-up petition in Britain, and other bills have reportedly gone unpaid.
Formula 1’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in the Times newspaper on Tuesday as saying he had stepped in to ensure staff were paid.
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“I thought I should cover the wages of the people there to make sure they were all right and so that Lotus would at least get to Spa and, hopefully, to Italy,” said the 84-year-old Briton.
“But they really need to make progress with Renault now to make sure everything is OK,” he added.
Renault, the team’s former owners who won titles with the Enstone-based outfit in 2005 and 2006, are assessing their Formula One options and whether to quit entirely or become more involved in the sport.
Currently engine supplier to Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso, the French manufacturer is tipped to retake control of Lotus.
While that would be welcomed by staff at the Enstone factory in central England, with optimistic reports in the media about the progress of talks, Renault have kept tight-lipped about their intentions.
“We would welcome them back with open arms obviously,” Lotus’s trackside operations director Alan Permane said after the race in Spa.
“We could have done an awful lot better this season with a little bit more investment and funding. Having said that our owners have kept us going. Through the hard times they’ve put money in.
“They’ve kept the team running and kept us coming to the races.”
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MICHELIN WON’T SHY AWAY FROM F1 TYRE WAR WITH PIRELLI

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Michelin remains open to going wheel-to-wheel with Pirelli in the Formula 1 world championship.
Currently, Bernie Ecclestone is in talks with the tyre manufacturers regarding which of them will be F1’s sole supplier beyond Pirelli’s 2016 deal.
But after the tyre blowout controversy following the recent Belgian grand prix, Michelin is applying the pressure.
“We know Spa very well,” said the French marque’s motor sport chief Pascal Couasnon, “because we have been there every year with the WEC for the 6 Hours.
“And we know it is a very demanding circuit for the tyres,” he told Germany’s Sport Bild.
Pirelli, however, is poised to announce that it was actually track debris that caused both blowouts in Belgium, including the one suffered by the furious Sebastian Vettel that was earlier blamed on excessive wear.
So while Michelin and Pirelli are duelling behind closed doors with Ecclestone, Couasnon said Michelin is open to also doing battle on the track.
“The move to 18-inch tyres would already be a challenge in itself,” he said, “but we always prefer direct competition and therefore an open battle against other tyre suppliers would be welcome.”
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HULKENBERG SET TO KEEP PORSCHE SEAT FOR 2016

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Nico Hulkenberg looks likely to defend his title as Le Mans winner at next year’s edition of the legendary 24 hour sports car race.
Splitting his time between his Force India and Porsche cockpits this year, the German won on debut in the premier class of arguably the world’s most famous motor race.
It had been said Hulkenberg’s Le Mans feat might be the springboard to a better seat in formula one, as he had been linked with Ferrari, Renault and the incoming Ferrari ‘B’ team Haas.
But the 28-year-old has now signed up for two more years at Force India.
Hulkenberg admitted at Spa that being allowed to split his F1 programme with Le Mans was important as he negotiated his new deal for 2016.
He now tells the German newspaper Bild: “If Porsche has a third car again, there is every chance that I will be one of the drivers.”
And it appears that his F1 boss Vijay Mallya will once again indulge Hulkenberg, commenting: “With us, he has developed into one of the best drivers in the world.
“When Nico won Le Mans I was very proud of him. If he thinks it’s good for him to go there again, I will let him do it.”
Bild speculates that Hulkenberg signed up early with Force India for 2016 amid the threat that Lotus and Pastor Maldonado will split, putting the Venezuelan’s $50 million per year in PDVSA sponsorship on the market.
Hulkenberg said: “I am happy to have my plans in the bag at an early stage.”
And Auto Motor und Sport surmised: “The Venezuelan petrodollars (of Maldonado) could now become a problem for Sergio Perez, but there are also rumours that Williams could be interested in Perez and his Mexican connections.”
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