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Ferrari momentum "wonderful" for F1 - Mansell


Former world champion Nigel Mansell believes that Ferrari's recent momentum is great for Formula 1 after so much Mercedes dominance.

Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory in Singapore - his third of the season - as Mercedes struggled for pace.
The German is 49 points behind Lewis Hamilton and just eight behind Nico Rosberg in the standings with six races to go.
1992 world champion Mansell, who drove for the Scuderia for two seasons in 1989-90, thinks that Vettel could capitalise should Mercedes suffer any more unreliability.
"I thought Seb and Ferrari were awesome and did a magnificent job (at Singapore) and it's wonderful for Formula 1," Mansell told
"I'm not quite sure what happened to Mercedes at the weekend, but they are obviously still a fantastic team.
"But, I do think in the later part of the race, if Lewis had not have had the problem, I think he would have challenged," he added.
"With 25 points for the win now, as opposed to what we used to get, it is an enormous bag of points," continued Mansell.
"Although there is incredible reliability now, you only need one or two problems, a DNF and someone gets a win and you can be caught, so it's not over and if Ferrari can keep their competitiveness it could be wonderful for them and wonderful for F1."
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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

Manor to complete new factory move


Manor's hopes of making the steps it needs to move up the Formula 1 grid next year will be boosted when it moves to a new factory later this week.

The former Marussia outfit has been without a permanent base since it went into administration on the eve of last year's United States Grand Prix.
Its old Banbury factory was sold by the administrators to the new Haas outfit, which will be using it as its European headquarters for its entry in to F1 next year.
Since coming out of administration following its rescue earlier this year, Manor has been operating out of various buildings, including Manor's Dinnington headquarters and offices at Silverstone.
However, later this week the team will be united under one roof when it moves to new premises in Banbury.
The cars will return there after this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.
Engine boost
Although Manor has struggled for form this year, thanks to running a modified 2014 car and last year's Ferrari engine, it is hopeful of making a good step next year.
The team is in talks with Mercedes about using its power unit in 2016 and, allied to a new car being produced by new staff that includes former Mercedes technical director Bob Bell, there is a good chance of it making a decent step forward in form.
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Lewis Hamilton 2015 Japanese Grand Prix Preview, with Allianz

“One of the greatest tracks, if not the greatest track in the world” MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team Driver Lewis Hamilton chats about the Suzuka International Racing Course. The reigning FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Champion shows the most crucial parts of the track in the simulator.”

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Engine regulations make it hard to catch up - Honda


Honda has called for Formula One's engine regulations to be relaxed in order to allow it to catch up with the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
Honda's return to Formula One as McLaren's engine supplier has not gone to plan, with its V6 hybrid power unit significantly down on power compared to its rivals. Honda joined the sport a year after the introduction of the current regulations and, with much less development time than its rivals, has struggled to produce a competitive energy recovery system to twin with its tightly packaged V6 turbo.
In order to control costs, once a manufacturer starts competing in F1 it can only introduce performance upgrades with the FIA's token system. Although Honda has not spent all of its tokens this year, Arai still feels the current regulations are too restrictive for a manufacturer playing catch-up.
"I think the current regulation is so restricted for the engine manufacturers," he said. "At Honda we are in a new phase and one year behind and it's very difficult to catch up the top teams. So I hope personally that the regulation is more relaxed which would be very useful to help catch up."
Honda currently has an exclusive deal with McLaren, but the team's racing director Eric Boullier said that could be opened up to allow customer teams in future years.
"In the current agreement for an engine manufacturer to enter Formula One there is a possibility to supply other teams and at some stage you have to rebalance against the market," he said. "So when we had the V8 and the frozen engine and more or less all the same [in performance], it was about commercial deals and it was more or less fairly split. Today the two strongest engines on the grid are Mercedes and Ferrari, so it's not surprising that most of the teams want them.
"[supplying another team] is a question that we have discussed already and we will keep discussing with Honda. At the right time in our partnership, they will be ready to supply another team."
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Alonso invoking ‘samurai spirit’ ahead of Suzuka


Fernando Alonso will be summoning local ghosts in his bid to improve McLaren-Honda fortunes at the latter's home grand prix this weekend.
The Spaniard, who admits to a fascination with Japanese culture, remains downbeat when it comes to his team's chances of success at Suzuka, with the Honda engine again expected to be outgunned by rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, but insists that that does not mean any less effort on his part.
“Singapore is now behind us, but Suzuka will surely be a challenge,” Alonso, who was forced into another DNF on Sunday, acknowledged, “Our car is well balanced and feels good to drive but, on a circuit with such a high average speed, it will be difficult to beat our competitors.”
Like Spa and Monza before it, Suzuka is a circuit that engenders a frisson of excitement amongst F1 drivers, and Alonso can at least look forward to the thrill of tackling the unique figure-of-eight layout in a grand prix car, regardless of McLaren's ultimate performance.
“I'm full of anticipation about going to Suzuka,” the veteran admitted, “It's a really tough circuit, and a huge test for the drivers, as a lot of it is really narrow and bumpy, so you need absolute commitment into every corner. It has almost the opposite characteristics to Singapore in terms of set-up, so it's a very different challenge that we'll face next weekend.”
While Honda was expected to take a step forward in Singapore, McLaren's fortunes remained the same, with both Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button struggling for performance before being asked to park their cars before the chequered flag. Despite that, the two-time Japanese Grand Prix winner is looking forward to the annual trip to the land of the rising sun.
“Like Jenson, I have a strong affinity with Japan - I love the country and I've always been fascinated by its culture,” Alonso noted, “I've loved racing there and I've won both at Suzuka and Fuji, so it holds a lot of special memories for me. The fans are one-of-a-kind and the circuit absolutely deserves its legendary status - it's one of the most exciting on the calendar. We'll take the samurai spirit with us to Suzuka and, as usual, we won't give up.”
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Lotus ready to bounce back after difficult Singapore


Lotus technical director Nick Chester believes that this weekend Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka should give the team an immediate chance to atone for its Singapore no score.
The Marina Bay race was the second in a row where Lotus left empty-handed, after its nightmare at Monza, but Chester believes that returning to a conventional circuit – even one as challenging as Suzuka – should give Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado the chance to return to the top ten.
“Street courses can often be pretty particular in their demands and that's something we saw in Singapore,” he reflected, “We knew it wasn't going to be one of the easiest races of the year for us, but we did have to really work hard to get to the best pace we could with the E23.
“We didn't get the tyres into their working window at the right time early on in the weekend and we also had all the usual street course challenges. Romain and his engineers, in particular, were able to make some subtle and positive changes to get him into the top ten for qualifying, which was rewarding for all, and both drivers did terrific jobs out on track, which is always very pleasing to see, even when you don't get the ultimate result you want.
“With the pace of the car and the starting positions, we had to try quite aggressive strategies. This was particularly the case with Romain after he lost positions at the start, meaning we brought forward his stops to undercut and gain track position. Unfortunately, this meant we missed out on a quick pit-stop under the virtual safety car at the first stop and then we suffered worse tyre degradation than expected on Romain's final stint, which cost us in the last few laps.
“Pastor made up positions from his start, but was compromised later on after the damage sustained from Jenson. It was certainly an interesting race and a challenging one on the pit-wall.”
Suzuka has its own challenges, but remains a favourite amongst teams and drivers for just that reason, and Chester is looking forward to trying to adapt the E23 to its exacting layout.
“The challenges are the high speed corners,” he explained, “You can't run maximum downforce in Suzuka as you will end up a little too slow on the straights, so you need to give the driver sufficient downforce to give confidence in the fast twisty bits whilst not clipping their wings down the straights.
“This is part of the reason why Suzuka is such a driver favourite, as they can be absolutely on the limit without the car totally stuck to the ground through maximum downforce. It's not just having sufficient downforce; it's ensuring that it is delivered in a balanced nature. Getting the suspension set-up spot on is essential here too, as you need to extract all the grip that's possible from the car.”
While the back-to-back scheduling of Singapore and Suzuka provides that immediate opportunity to bounce back from a poor weekend, however, the logistical demands imposed by the calendar have their own effect on preparations for all teams.
“It does make for a busy week with the added challenge of the crew changing their body clocks to local time after fighting the urge to do that for the night schedule of Singapore,” Chester explained, “Fortunately, both locations are relatively straight-forward to work in so there aren't additional challenges like you have in Monaco for instance. Our set-up crew is well versed at packing-up and building-up the garages and rest of the infrastructure we have, but certainly they have busy few days with the back-to-backs.”
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Mercedes F1 team chairman Niki Lauda has called Sebastian Vettel “extraordinary, a driver with two qualities that few others possess – brains and speed,” and has expressed his concerns that Ferrari is now “the strongest it has been for years.”
Ferrari outqualified and outraced Mercedes in Singapore, having been close on pace at all the recent races this season where the supersoft and soft tyres were chosen (Canada/Austria). Although this weekend in Suzuka is likely to see Mercedes’ advantage restored on the hard and medium compound tyres, Lauda says what happened in Singapore must serve as a wake up call to his team.
Speaking to Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport Lauda said: “You know what worries me the most about what happened? Leaving Singapore without really understanding what slowed us down. At the same time as I saw a Ferrari that is the strongest it has been for years.”
The three time world champion also singled out Vettel’s performance, “He drove a masterful race, as only great champions can do. Did you see that first lap when he pulled three seconds gap on the field? And the skill at restarts? He has two qualities that very few drivers possess: brains and speed.”
Lauda explained that Mercedes knew from Friday practice in Singapore that it was in trouble, the car sliding too much, lacking grip in comparison with its rivals.
Both drivers said the car felt balanced, but lacked grip and were mystified as to how the Ferrari and Red Bull cars were able to find so much grip on the same tyres. It was almost as if they were using medium tyres when the rivals were on supersoft.
“They tried everything on the set up, experiments of all kinds,” said Lauda. But neither they (drivers) nor their engineers could work out what was happening.”
He added, “On the positive side this will serve as a wake up call, a really good wake up call. Theoretically (the world championship) does not open up here because we still have a big (points) advantage over Ferrari.
“But we only need another race to go badly and Ferrari is there, ready to capitalise with Vettel. Hamilton has 49 points on Sebastian with six races to go. It’s a nice margin, but we cannot lose focus.
“I still think the Mercedes is the strongest car so I’m optimistic.
“But the championship is open.”
Lauda’s comments can be taken at face value, but there is also a political dimension to this, with the goings on behind the scenes around Mercedes’ refusal to give Red Bull an engine and Red Bull’s ongoing appeals to Ferrari to supply one.
Ferrari should be strong and believe in themselves, is the subtext here.
Mercedes’ Red Bull snub has not been a popular decision at the highest levels of the sport and this ‘first mover advantage’ leaves Ferrari in an awkward position as the only possible engine supplier to Red Bull. Ferrari’s reservations about supplying Red Bull are the same as Mercedes’, although there was another dimension for the Stuttgart marque as they feared a Red Bull partnership with VW/Audi in 2018 and did not want to be supplying Red Bull during the build up phase to that, risking IP on its technology leaking to one of its main commercial rivals.
The latest scandals around VW in the USA on emissions cheating have come out of the blue and VW boss Martin Winterkorn has resigned; certainly the repercussions of this scandal will be hugely expensive for VW. The company yesterday made clear it’s set aside $7 billion for making good, fines and reparations over the affair. It could run deeper than that.
Committing to an F1 campaign has suddenly become a very low priority in that context. However as the affair also highlights the likely long term disruption of the diesel automotive market, VW and Audi may be forced to shift towards petrol hybrid turbo engines and what better place to promote that than F1, which is the pinnacle of this technology?
Talking up Ferrari at this time is a smart move by Lauda in terms of the long term interests of the sport.
But the reality is, he’s a plain speaker and he clearly believes what he is saying about Vettel and the team with which he won two of his world titles. He was the pioneer of that special alchemy between Germanic driver and Italian style and technology. Michael Schumacher repeated the formula with devastating effect and Vettel looks set to write a new chapter.
Lauda knows it when he sees it.
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As the rest of the Formula 1 paddock prepared for the Japanese Grand Prix, the Lotus team were locked out of their hospitality unit at Suzuka.

That’s according to a report in publication L’Equipe, as the embattled Enstone team’s next court date in London on Monday threatens to put them into administration.
The buyout by Renault still appears to be tantalisingly close, but L’Equipe said that because Lotus has not paid bills to Suzuka for last year’s race, they were not given the keys to building in 2015.
The report said Lotus had similar troubles in Singapore a week ago, where it had to rent furniture for the paddock after sea-freight bills went unpaid.
“Certainly circumstances are forcing us to pursue a rather unusual approach to this season but we’re getting near to a resolution,” insisted deputy boss Federico Gastaldi this week.
Nevertheless, Pastor Maldonado is all signed up for 2016, while his current teammate Romain Grosjean is believed to have accepted an offer to switch to Haas-Ferrari.
Asked when an announcement may be due, Frenchman Grosjean said only: “Soon.”
As for the rest of the paddock, they may all be affected by the weather in Japan this weekend, as all eyes are on a tropical storm called Dujuan that is threatening to become a typhoon.
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Press Release: Infiniti Red Bull Racing is pleased to announce a partnership agreement with AeroSlim, for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
As an official race partner, AeroSlim will see its logos feature on the overalls and fireproof underwear of drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat throughout the race weekend.
AeroSlim is part of the WRS group of companies, a Japanese leader in the fields of cosmetics and health foods. Available in 20 countries around the globe, AeroSlim is a herbal breath freshener and mouth cleanser, which also has properties that allow it to break down body fat. In an interesting parallel with Red Bull, the herb which is at the basis of AeroSlim was actually discovered in Thailand, where it is used in a special tea taken by people trying to give up smoking.
The President and CEO of WRS, Mr. Huh Sun Jung, said: “The WRS group are pleased to partner with Infiniti Red Bull Racing for this year’s Japanese Grand Prix to promote the benefits of our AeroSlim products. AeroSlim herbal products are proven to bring balance, harmony and health to our consumers. AeroSlim products also assist with calorie intake, and in conjunction with regular exercise, can help consumers reach and maintain their weight loss.”
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Suzuka improves safety to avoid repeat of Bianchi crash


Suzuka has made changes to improve drainage in wet-weather conditions, with circuit modifications employed at a number of corners – including Turn 7 where Jules Bianchi crashed.

Safety at the Japanese Grand Prix venue was put in the spotlight 12 months ago when Bianchi spun off the track and crashed into a recovery vehicle.
He died in July from the injuries he suffered in the accident.
One of the factors that contributed to the Frenchman's accident was that streams of water had run on to the track at Turn 7 after rain intensified in the closing stages of the race.
As a result of what happened, Suzuka has installed porous asphalt stripes and 'U' drains on the edges of the track at a number of corners – with a particular focus on Turns 1, 3, 6, 7, 13 and 18.
The newly-installed longer drains run for several metres at various points of the circuit, draining water well away from the track to avoid the chances of cars aquaplaning.
A new crane has also been positioned behind the barriers at Turn 7 too, which will be used instead of the recovery tractor that was there last year.
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Perez: Renault switch was “a serious option”


Sergio Perez has admitted that moving to Renault had been a serious option for him, before he eventually decided to commit his Formula 1 future to Force India.

The Mexican's contract extension for 2016 was announced ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, and the news brought a swift end to speculation linking him with a move to join the potential new works team being put together by the French car manufacturer.
But although talks with Renault took place, in the end Perez believed his immediate future was best placed staying put for another year.
His deal is for one year, with options beyond that.
When asked by about the Renault interest, Perez said: “Obviously you always listen to other options and other offers, and obviously Renault – if they come – they are a very attractive team.
“But at the moment, I knew that the best for me and the best place available was staying here.”
Perez made it clear, however, that continued uncertainty about if Renault's plans will get the green light was not a factor in his decision.
“No. It has nothing to do with that,” he explained. “It was obviously a serious option but for me I always made my mind clear, knowing the prospects of the team and knowing what we were doing in the background.
“That is why I always wanted to stay. I am very happy to stay.”
Force India progress
Perez is upbeat about the potential for Force India next year, and thinks the outfit can make progress to challenge nearer the front.
“I am very happy here, and I believe in the team,” he said. “I think the team has very good prospects in the future.
“We are improving what we did last year and I see no reason why next year we cannot do even better than this year.
“I think the team is finding good stability in all the aspects, which definitely is important for us. That made me feel very comfortable with my decision and I want to say I am happy to confirm that one now.”
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Winterkorn resignation to scupper VW F1 bid?


The prospects of the Volkswagen Group entering Formula 1 could be scuppered by the news that Martin Winterkorn is to resign as its chief executive in the wake of the US car emissions scandal.
Winterkorn was known to be the driving force behind a bid to convince Volkswagen board members to sign off a move into F1, a passage made clearer by former chairman Ferdinand Piech – who was against the proposal – exiting the firm earlier in the year.
However, the revelation that the world's largest car maker manipulated US diesel car emissions tests to give more positive results has claimed its first victim in Winterkorn, who said the company needed a 'fresh start' to rebuild consumer confidence even if he insists he had no knowledge of the wrongdoing.
The news is a swift and potentially decisive blow to the suggestion that VW could finally green light a move into F1 at least in the short-term, particularly as it says it will be setting aside £4.7 billion to cover costs of the scandal and has already had upwards of 40 billion euros wiped off its value on the stock market.
News broke over the Singapore Grand Prix weekend that VW was close to a deal to take over Red Bull Racing's F1 effort from 2018 and was set to construct its own power unit, only for the scale of the emissions scandal to emerge too.
German media is reporting Porsche boss Matthias Mueller will be named as Winterkorn's replacement on Friday.
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McLaren ‘working hard’ to address financial shortfall


McLaren says it is hopeful of being able to announce some positive news regarding potential sponsors before the end of the 2015 F1 season.
The beleaguered Woking outfit is set to take a big hit in income derived from its results on track this year and, with few noticeable backers on the MP4-30, openly admits that it is facing a financial shortfall compared to previous campaigns.
Having finished an uncharacteristic fifth in the 2014 constructors' standings, McLaren is on course to do even worse this year, currently sitting ninth of ten teams after a disastrous first season back in the arms of Honda. With only the scoreless Manor team beneath it, the fallen giant admits that it is in an unenviable situation, with the expected drop in FOM money going hand-in-hand with results that aren't exactly attractive to potential sponsors.
Although Johnnie Walker and SAP remain on board, the past two seasons have seen largely barren McLarens taking to the track, with assorted ExxonMobil brand 'liveries' revolving in 2014 and a change from the familiar chrome paint scheme to a more dour black the main talking point for the current campaign.
Although it is only nine points behind nearest rival Sauber after last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, McLaren has not scored since Hungary and posted its fourth double DNF of the season on the streets of Marina Bay, leading racing director Eric Boullier to acknowledge the difficult times that could lay ahead.
“As a partner, obviously we have to address this scenario next year,” the Frenchman conceded, “If we are not finishing in the right ranking in the championship, we will lose some direct FOM monies and we will have to find a way to replace it. We are working hard and, obviously, we have to find sponsors.”
With no immediate improvement in Honda's performance on the horizon, and with veteran Jenson Button expected to announce his retirement as an F1 driver, possibly at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, the off-season will be a crucial one for McLaren, but Boullier is confident that there will be good news to report before too long.
“As a team, we are working hard to improve our sponsorship folio and, [while] I cannot guarantee you 100 per cent, 99.9% that there will be some announcement soon,” he claimed as the F1 circus prepared to decamp from Singapore to Suzuka.”
Heading to Honda's home race this weekend ties in with Boullier's suggestion that an announcement is imminent, although team owner Ron Dennis played dumb when asked about potential Chinese investment at the Singapore race last Sunday. Boullier would also not confirm suggestions that McLaren's engine partner was preparing to step up its involvement.
“I'm not saying it's going to be Honda, we have to do it,” he said, “There are other mechanisms, but we are going to address this if it happens.”
Current McLaren reserve Kevin Magnussen or GP2 Series champion-elect Stoffel Vandoorne are expected to replace Button should the Briton announce his expected exit from F1.
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Rosberg looking for change of luck


Having been able to reclaim twelve points in his F1 championship battle with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg is hoping his fortune holds as the series heads to Suzuka.
Japan in general has been an unhappy hunting ground for the German, with last year's runners-up finish behind Hamilton his best in nine attempts split between this weekend's venue and the short-lived alternate at Fuji. The 2014 result also came in the middle of Hamilton's unbeaten end-of-season sprint to the title, which left Rosberg second-best on the year as well.
The Briton's first retirement of 2015 allowed Rosberg to repair some of the championship damage done by his own Monza misfortune but, with Sebastian Vettel winning for a Ferrari team that appeared to have closed the performance gap on Mercedes, it might again be too little too late for the driver of car #6.
“Obviously, Singapore wasn't a good weekend for the team, but I know everybody has been working hard to understand what happened and it's good that we've got a chance to get straight back on it this weekend,” Rosberg said of the back-to-back races, “I haven't had the best of luck at this circuit in the past and I'd love to change that.”
Like Hamilton, Rosberg puts Suzuka high on his list of favourite venues and, despite acknowledging the sombre overtones that the first anniversary of Jules Bianchi's crash will bring to the event, is looking forward to returning.
“Suzuka is an awesome track - one of the best in motorsport and a real test of driver skill.” the German noted, “There's so much going on around the lap, with high, medium and low speed corners all thrown in together. The first sector is great fun to drive; you have to really nail the line and a small mistake can cost you so much time. You have to find a good rhythm and that's a challenge I really enjoy.”
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Lotus: Pastor will benefit from continuity


Lotus are confident we will see the best of Pastor Maldonado next year as both parties will "benefit from the continuity of the relationship".
Maldonado joined Lotus from Williams ahead of the 2014 campaign, but he will be the first to admit that his two season with the Enstone squad have not really gone according to plan as he picked up only two points last year while he has 12 this year compared to team-mate Romain Grosjean's 38.
However, the team confirmed just a few hours after the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday that they have retained Maldonado for a third season.
Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi says the continuity will help to bring out the best in both next year.
"We have an existing multi-year deal with Pastor so it was time to publically confirm he will be driving with us as part of this deal in 2016," he said.
"Whilst it is true that Pastor has experienced a difficult season in 2015, from working with him we know his strengths very well.
"This year has certainly been a trying season for many reasons, but Pastor is always positive and always delivering to the best of his ability.
"He is a pleasure to work with and we will both benefit from the continuity of the relationship continuing into its third season."
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Daniel Ricciardo gets Red Bull F1 chiefs' reassurance over 2016


Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull Formula 1 chiefs have reassured him the team will find a lifeline amid its current lack of a 2016 engine deal.
Following Red Bull's decision to split from power-unit Renault at the end of the year, it has suggested over recent days that unless it receives a competitive engine from 2016 then it will pull out of F1, along with sister team Toro Rosso.
With Mercedes refusing to supply, Red Bull's only option is Ferrari, although the Scuderia's chairman Sergio Marchionne has expressed concerns to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone about doing so.
Ricciardo confirmed he had sought assurances from team principal Christian Horner and advisor Helmut Marko
"They're confident we'll figure it out one way or another," said the Australian.
"Obviously it's in our interest to try and get the best. We want to win as well, so that's what we are trying to get.
"I haven't broken [owner] Dietrich's [Mateschitz] balls yet, I'm sure he's got a lot on his plate.
"I'll let him do what he needs to, and if it gets later into the year and still nothing has come then I'll maybe make a little bit of noise.
"But honestly I don't feel it will get to that."
On the possibility of being without an F1 drive for 2016 if Red Bull quits, Ricciardo initially joked "I'm too young to have a year off!", then added "right now I'm not concerned. I'm more curious to see what happens.
"It's still only September - don't get me wrong, the sooner we have an answer the better - we're not in November, December yet.
"When it starts getting towards that part of the year then you've got to start really deciding what's going to happen.
"But it's still early and I'm confident we'll get what we're after."
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Nico Hulkenberg apologises to Felipe Massa for Singapore F1 crash


Felipe Massa says Formula 1 rival Nico Hulkenberg sent him an apology after the Singapore Grand Prix collision that earned the Force India driver a penalty for Japan.
Hulkenberg will take a three-place grid demotion this weekend at Suzuka as a punishment for colliding with Massa when the Williams was emerging from the pitlane at Marina Bay.
The Force India came off worst in the incident, going straight into the wall, while Massa continued before later encountering gearbox problems.
"He sent me an SMS to apologise, so it was nice," Massa told reporters at Suzuka on Thursday.
"Maybe he was too optimistic to close the door like that, but anyway it's OK and it's nice to have the message.
"He had a big chance to stay in front, because he could brake much later because his tyres were in a much better shape.
"If he stayed to the line on the right, then at the next corner it would've been in his favour.
"He just closed the door too early and didn't give any space for me."
Hulkenberg said he had watched the incident again and understood he could have left more space.
"I probably should have given him a bit more room, because he was on the inside and I had some space on the right," he said.
"Visibility is also difficult when you are alongside each other and I thought I was ahead enough, but I wasn't clearly, in hindsight, so we take the penalty here."
Massa felt Hulkenberg had better visibility for judging the situation than he did in the pit exit.
"When I left the pitlane and I'm doing the corner on the left I was in front," said the Brazilian.
"And on that angle it was impossible to see him, so I just saw him when I was already starting braking.
"I couldn't do anything because I was in front, and I couldn't see that there was a car there.
"It's easier for him to see me, than for me to see him."
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Jules Bianchi’s father says he can no longer bear to watch Formula One a year on from the Japanese Grand Prix accident that led to the French driver’s death last July.
“Perhaps in a few months, a few years, I can see again a grand prix, I don’t know. But for the moment, it is too difficult,” Philippe Bianchi told the BBC in an interview from his home in the south of France.
Bianchi, 25, suffered severe head injuries when his Marussia skidded off a wet track in fading light at Suzuka last October and slammed into the side of a recovery tractor lifting Adrian Sutil’s crashed Sauber.
The Frenchman, tipped as a future Ferrari driver with a glittering future ahead of him, was flown back to France and died in hospital in Nice.
He was the first driver to die of injuries sustained in a race since Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna at Imola in Italy in 1994.
Flowers and tributes were placed against the pitlane wall near the Marussia garage at Suzuka on Thursday with more laid at the corner where he crashed.
Banners in the stands and around the track made clear he remained firmly in the minds of fans as well as his fellow drivers.
“This weekend was always going to be a hard one for the team but we need to get through it as best we can,” said current Marussia driver Will Stevens, who attended Suzuka last year as team reserve.
Bianchi’s funeral was just before the Hungarian Grand Prix, which his family attended but Philippe said he had not been able to watch footage of the accident.
He said he was now determined to establish a charitable foundation to help other young racers achieve their dreams in the sport.
“I want to make a foundation to help young drivers perhaps in go-karts who don’t have money and who need some people to give them experience,” he explained.
“I speak with a lot of drivers in Formula One and am sure that they want to help me because I think that all the drivers are very touched by this dramatic incident and I know that I have a lot of people beside me who want to help.
“I’m sure I can make something good for Jules. It’s important now because Jules is not here, but it’s difficult because he is missed a lot.”
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Formula 1 world champions Mercedes see resurgent Ferrari as a genuine threat and have done since early in the season, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg said at the Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters only days after Sebastian Vettel won in Singapore for his third victory in 13 races for the Italian team, the Mercedes team mates agreed Ferrari were firmly on their radar.
“They are a threat and we do take them very seriously,” said Rosberg, who is second in the championship — 41 points behind Hamilton but now only eight clear of Vettel with six races remaining.
“They have been a threat at various times throughout the whole season.”
Hamilton, who failed to finish in Singapore in his first retirement of the year, said he had never ruled Ferrari out of the equation.
“How seriously I take it (the Ferrari threat) hasn’t changed since Malaysia,” said the Briton, winner of seven races this year with 11 poles in 12 races until Singapore when Vettel was fastest on Saturday and Sunday.
“For me everyone’s a threat and they (Ferrari) have been since Malaysia (in March). Since then they’ve always been in view… we’ve been aware of them all year.”
Hamilton said post-Singapore analysis of what went wrong in Singapore, where Vettel was a second and a half faster than Mercedes, had produced a lot of explanations for what had happened.
The Singapore street circuit is slow and twisty, unlike Suzuka which has some fearsome high-speed corners, and the race run at night in high humidity.
“I can’t tell you what the team have come up with but they have come up with a lot of solutions, a lot of reasons for it being the way it was,” said Hamilton.
“The majority of them believe that at least one of the many reasons they came up with had a domino effect. So I’m confident that it’s been understood but they will still continue to do analysis for sure.”
Vettel, who has now won as many races in his debut season with Ferrari as Michael Schumacher did in his first year at Maranello in 1996, told a separate news conference that he expected Mercedes to be faster in Suzuka.
“In a way it was a big surprise to see Mercedes struggling, which I don’t expect to be the case here. Again, it would be a big surprise,” said the German.
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2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button was giving nothing away on Thursday despite mounting speculation that he is gearing up to leave Formula One at the end of the season.
Appearing in a Japanese Grand Prix news conference with four other drivers, including Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the 35-year-old McLaren driver was left until last by the moderator asking pre-prepared questions.
With a palpable sense of expectation building in the room, the Briton smiled — and disappointed an audience hungry for news.
“What today? Or after this?,” he grinned, stalling teasingly when asked what his plans were. I can’t give you anything else really since the last race, there’s no more information to give you,” he said. “You’re going to have to wait for a little while I’m sorry to say.
“But we’re in good talks, the team and myself, so that’s it. We are here to concentrate on this weekend. It’s a big weekend for us, McLaren-Honda, in front of Honda’s home crowd at their circuit.”
With social media lighting up to impart the news that he had no news to give, reporters tried to tease more information out of a man who has seen it all before as the most experienced driver in the paddock.
“How much is a little bit?,” he was asked. And did the reference to talks indicate he could still be around next season? The attempt was doomed to failure.
“There are so many possibilities about what could happen next year,” said Button. “So many possibilities. But I’ve got nothing else for you, I’m sorry to say.”
Speculation about his future reached new heights after the Singapore Grand Prix when he told British reporters he had made a decision.
He spoke about missing the ‘joy’ of competing, remarks interpreted as signalling the end of a career that started at Williams in 2000. There was speculation an announcement could be made at Suzuka.
“The joy of being in the car is only there if you’re fighting at the front, because you feel like you’re achieving something,” he had said.
“If you’re fighting near the back, you’re driving an F1 car, but you can easily get joy driving something else.”
Button returned to that theme on Thursday, saying: “I don’t think any driver has joy when they are not fighting for victories.
“I don’t like finishing 14th, I don’t like finishing 10th. That’s not what gives me joy and excites me. But there are so many other things that if they work in your favour or you see a future, there’s the possibility of joy coming back.”
Former champions McLaren, in a new partnership with Honda, have had an abject season with the engine uncompetitive and unreliable.
Both Button and Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso have collected multiple penalties due to repeated engine problems and the Briton has scored just six points in 13 races.
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Lotus’ financial woes were laid literally bare at Suzuka as crates of equipment were laying wet in the paddock, the hospitality unit was completely empty as the struggling team was locked out.
There were reports that the Mercedes engines for the black and gold cars were not yet even at Suzuka. Amidst it all, driver Romain Grosjean held his own umbrella as – without a hospitality unit to house the assembled media – he conducted his press duties in the rain.
Still, the Frenchman was smiling, probably helped by the fact that he is almost certainly departing for Haas-Ferrari in 2016.
“I am pretty pleased with my choice,” said Grosjean, explaining that an announcement is coming “soon”, probably next week. For now, he is suffering with his other colleagues of the Enstone team as it waits to hear if it will be bought out by Renault.
Grosjean said Lotus’ rivals have been making the struggle a little easier.
“It is quite nice to see the hospitality you get in the paddock when you are running out of food. The other teams have been opening their doors,” he revealed.
Mechanics, meanwhile, are now seriously behind in their work to prepare his black and gold car, but Grosjean said: “As long as they catch up by tomorrow, I’m happy.”
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The late Jules Bianchi’s father has urged the world not to lose hope about the recovery of F1 legend Michael Schumacher.
Updates about the condition of the great seven time world champion have been scarce since he left hospital to return home to Switzerland more than a year ago.
International reports in the last 24 hours, however, have said that the former Ferrari and Mercedes driver now weighs less than a mere 45 kilograms, cannot walk or talk and has limited consciousness.
But as he gave an interview to France’s RMC on the one-year anniversary of his son’s ultimately-fatal Suzuka crash, Philippe Bianchi told the Schumacher family and the wider world not to give up hope.
“We unfortunately experienced a painful tragedy as well, and like us they (the Schumacher family) showed their strength and have never let go of Michael.”
“I have no news about him so I can’t comment on anything because we don’t always know what the sources (of the Schumacher news) are. For what I can say, it is to not let go.”
“So long as Michael is still there, he fights. He is the greatest champion that formula one has known.”
“Jules was very touched by the accident that happened to him (Schumacher) and today I pray that he can get through it, as he is still there and there is always hope,” Philippe added.
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McLaren is holding what is being referred to as ‘crisis talks’ ahead of struggling Honda’s home grand prix in Japan.
This week, team boss Eric Boullier has been at Sakura, the Japanese carmaker’s F1 base, almost 500 kilometres from the Honda-owned Suzuka track.
With Honda struggling so obviously, there is plenty to talk about. Writing for the Telegraph, Daniel Johnson said he had even heard that supremo Ron Dennis had warned the recent meeting of the strategy group that engine development restrictions could push Honda out of the sport.
McLaren-Honda clearly have Bernie Ecclestone on their side.
“I think this is putting off other manufacturers,” the F1 supremo told Forbes. “100 per cent. “If Honda had come in and blasted away, people would have said ‘If they can do it, we can do it’. Now it’s the other way round. They say ‘If they haven’t done it, what chance have we got?'”
At the Honda meeting, chiefs will also have discussed the income situation for 2016, with McLaren reportedly to lose key backers as well as millions in official prize money. But the German-language Speed Week said McLaren may have met with a potential Chinese sponsor last weekend in Singapore.
McLaren-Honda, meanwhile – and F1 at large – looks set to lose the 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who appears to have tired of his situation following reports the Woking team wants him to forgo a contracted pay-rise.
And the jury is out as to whether Fernando Alonso can maintain his own patience for much longer.
“We are still in our pre-season testing,” the Spaniard is quoted by the Marca sports newspaper this week. “This should not be (the case) in the fourteenth race, but we are a little bit behind.”
Alonso’s predicament is on the lips of many paddock dwellers, including Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who told AS newspaper that he misses going wheel-to-wheel with one of F1’s greats.
“Fernando is a great,” the Australian agreed, “and he has had an incredible career in F1. “He is one of those drivers who always wants to win, so I really feel bad for what is happening this year, which is not normal for someone like Fernando.
“I know they (McLaren-Honda) are trying to build for the future,” Ricciardo added, “but it’s tough for a champion like him.”
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F1 teams are reportedly still arguing over whether Pirelli’s new ‘ultra soft’ compound for the 2016 season will be tested in Abu Dhabi after the November season finale.
Paul Hembery said in Singapore that a two-day session at the Yas Marina circuit has been lined up, as Pirelli aims to introduce a fifth tyre compound next year.
But some teams, including Force India, are arguing that a two-day test is excessive, according to Auto Motor und Sport. Team manager Andy Stevenson said the issue of who pays for the test is a sticking point.
“We pay for our tyres,” he said, “so why should we also bear Pirelli’s development costs?” The report said that if the Abu Dhabi test is ultimately shelved, so too will be Pirelli’s new fifth compound.
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Ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, Daniil Kvyat insisted he is not worried about the future — not his own, nor that of his Red Bull team.
At present, Red Bull is without an engine deal for 2016 and threatening to pull both of its teams out of F1 if Ferrari does not release an ‘A’ spec supply.
And Kvyat might have another reason to be worried, as Red Bull Racing has not yet taken up the option on his contract, amid rumours the energy drink company is looking to promote Toro Rosso sensation Max Verstappen.
Asked if he is therefore looking elsewhere for 2016, Kvyat insisted: “I have been with Red Bull for many years and so at the moment I am not thinking about anything else.
“I appreciate that you’re worried about my future,” he smiled, “but I’ll be ok.
“Let’s wait to see what decisions are taken, but my future first of all is Friday, Saturday and Sunday here at Suzuka. It’s not time to think about what happens after that.”
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