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F1 news LIVE: Lewis Hamilton waits on Abu Dhabi inquiry as Mercedes deny deal to remove Michael Masi

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Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One future remains in the balance, if only because there has been no clarification from him in public over his intentions ahead of the 2022 campaign. The British racer is still contracted with Mercedes through to 2023, but speculation has grown that he could walk away ever since the dramatic events at the end of last term which saw Max Verstappen clinch the championship on the final lap of the season.

Four-time world champion Alain Prostrated the chances of Hamilton coming back to F1 at just “50-50”, amid suggestions that the outcome of an inquiry into the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi could prove key to his final call - which might include a sabbatical year. Michael Masi came under serious pressure as race director for his decisions during that Grand Prix in particular, while Mercedes eventually dropped their appeal against Red Bull’s driver winning the title in such fashion.

Elsewhere, a McLaren boss has suggested teams will be looking to perform “trickery” within the new rules to maximise their chances of success once the new-look cars hit the tracks later this year. Follow all the latest F1 news below:

F1 latest news

F1 news

21:00 , Karl Matchett

Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi has claimed that Esteban Ocon’s surprise victory at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix was not the team’s best moment of the Formula 1 season.

The Frenchman claimed a stunning maiden win in August, capitalising on an off-day for the fastest cars on the grid and holding off Lewis Hamilton to take victory.

He was aided greatly by veteran teammate Fernando Alonso as Alpine claimed a first Grand Prix triumph under their current banner.

However Rossi feels the success in Hungary was not the best indicator of the team’s progress and growth, instead spotlighting Alonso’s podium in Qatar in November and Ocon’s fourth place finish in Saudi Arabia in the penultimate race of the 2021 season.

“It was a great moment in the season, a statement of the good work we did,” commented Rossi on Ocon’s Hungary victory to Motorsport.com.

“But I would say, and it’s surprising for everyone, it wasn’t as much as the 19 points we scored for the podium and fifth place in Qatar, or the strong finish with Esteban’s fourth place in Saudi Arabia.”

Full report and the boss’ explanation here:

Ocon win at Hungarian GP ranked by Alpine chief as team’s third-best moment in 2021

F1 news

20:30 , Karl Matchett

Valtteri Bottas leaves Mercedes for Alfa Romeo having been a key part of Lewis Hamilton’s success stories over the past few years - but always as a No2 driver. Ultimately, that has pushed him to depart and test himself elsewhere.

A push in his own career was necessary for Bottas to improve further, he believes, and the move to be a team leader was one he wasn’t going to get with the Brit still in place at Mercedes. That said, Bottas told GPFans that he had learned plenty from working with Hamilton which he could take forward.

“I’ve been in a position that I’ve got to know Lewis pretty well as a human being as well, not just as a Formula 1 champion, and learned that he fully deserves everything he’s achieved. He’s got the talent, but then he puts that into good use and he works really hard,” Bottas said.

“When he is in his working mode and in this Formula 1 mode, he’s never leaving any stone unturned and he’s always pushing the team a lot.

“I feel like in the last few years, he’s been more in a lead role, and for me, it’s been quite difficult to try and take a lead role, because he’s been, obviously, here before and he’s pretty dominant in the way he works with a team. Also, setting up the car for sure, I’ve learned a few things, but also many [other] things.”

Bottas did point out that it was a two-way street between the pair at times though, with Hamilton looking to the Finn’s qualifying set-up at times and often speaking well of his team-mate.

F1 news

20:00 , Karl Matchett

Antonio Giovinazzi is remaining hopeful that he’ll make a return to Formula One, after being cut from Alfa Romeo at the end of last season.

Despite three years with the team they opted against a renewal and he will be Ferrari’s reserve driver this year, splitting the role with Mick Schumacher.

But that’s far from the extent of his ambitions and he told Formula1.com that he’s aiming for a comeback just as others have done.

“I’m leaving for now. I posted my first picture in a F1 car when I was three years old on my social media. The last picture [in F1] is not this year. We saw already many drivers have stopped for one year and come back, like Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon,” he said.

“On my side, I had two years reserve driving for Ferrari in 2017 and 2018 and finally got my chance in 2019. You never know what will happen in F1.

“One of the things I will do next is keep one foot in the F1 paddock. I’m still part of the Ferrari family. We’re trying to have the same things next year; it’s important to stay here and see if there is a chance in 2023. We’re looking for this, and I’d be happy to continue with them.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news

19:40 , Karl Matchett

Fernando Alonso has named the two drivers who had him enthralled during his year away from F1 - and added in a third upon being cheekily interrupted by Daniel Ricciardo in an interview with Formula One.

“I said at the beginning of the championship as well, before it had even started, in Bahrain, that the driver that impressed me more when I was at home watching on TV was George [Russell], on the performance in the Williams, and Max [Verstappen]. Those were the two guys that I was switching on the TV [for],” Alonso said.

“And Daniel because he was in the Renault and that car was very interesting to me last year! But no, I mean, they were giving something extra and that was the reason why I was putting on the TV.”

Alonso will have surgery in January to remove plates in his face from a cycling crash last year, before preparing for the new season where he hopes Alpine can make real progress.

“It’s up to us to do a good car; we will either do it or learn from our mistakes. But there are no more [excuses]: [we cannot say] we have less budget or we have less resources or they are using two wind tunnels. There are no more [of] all those things so it is up to us.”

F1 news

19:20 , Karl Matchett

McLaren CEO Zak Brown says his team entirely oppose any raising of the cost cap for sprints.

F1’s limit of $140m for the 2022 season should be raised to compensate for potential crash damage with the addition of sprint qualifying, some teams have argued, leading to a $450,000 add-on - with six of these weekends to be seen in the new, upcoming campaign.

Brown revealed certain teams are fighting for the cap to be raised again, but McLaren will be standing firm in opposing it.

Some teams want to take the opportunity to raise the cost cap,” he said, per Motorsport-Total.com.

“We are strongly opposed to increasing the cost cap. So we will have to deal with this issue.

“The reality is there was very little damage last year. They made a report on the damage in the first round and that report showed there was very little damage. We assumed anyway there would be very little damage, and it turned out there was very little damage.

“Some teams want to take the opportunity to increase the budget by a ridiculous amount. For some teams it may be new that they have to manage a budget, but I think that’s in the spirit of the sport. We have to resist the fact certain teams are taking the opportunity to try to constantly increase that.”

F1 news

19:00 , Karl Matchett

McLaren team boss Zak Brown hopes the introduction of new regulations in Formula One ahead of the 2022 season will make the fight for the drivers’ championship a more open competition this year.

Changes to promote closer racing and increase overtaking opportunities will come into force ahead of the start of the new campaign in March, in the first major shake up of F1’s rules since 2014.

With the 2022 season therefore providing teams a clean slate, Brown would like to see several teams heading into the final Grand Prix of the season with a chance of winning the title, after a campaign which saw Mercedes and Red Bull win the majority of races.

“My hopes are that we go into Abu Dhabi next year with three or four cars who can compete for the championship, I think that’s the ultimate goal,” Brown said.

“I think this year has been spectacular, up and down the grid, and I hope with what has been put in place and the new car designs, and the intent of the new aerodynamic package, that what we’re seeing now is just a taste of the future.”

McLaren made significant strides last campaign, winning their first race in nine years as Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Lando Norris also enjoyed an impressive first half of the campaign, as McLaren battled with Ferrari for third place in the constructors, a fight eventually won by the Italian team.

There have been some fears that the change of regulations could bring a new era of dominance for one team if they get ahead of the pack early, as was seen in 2009 as Brawn surged to the title and in 2014 when Mercedes took advantage.

But Brown believes that it will be a different story this time around, predicting a tightening of the field.

“I’d be very surprised if next year was a boring campaign with the new cars,” Brown said. “I think you’ll get some winners and losers and some surprises. I’d be surprised if there was dominance.

“You could get a team who is maybe dominant for a small period of time like Brawn was when they figured out something in 2009. But I think with the cost cap now in place, you can feel the tension that is put on the teams who stopped developing this car in expensive of next year.

“I’d be surprised if the field didn’t continue to get closer.”

F1 news

18:40 , Karl Matchett

Lewis Hamilton could take a “sabbatical year” from Formula One if he does not receive assurances from the FIA that there will be changes to how its rules are enforced ahead of next season, it was been warned.

Hamilton lost out on a record-breaking eighth F1 title to Max Verstappen on the last lap of the season at a hugely controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last month.

The 36-year-old is still yet to add any further comment on the result of the race, after Mercedes withdrew their appeal of Verstappen’s championship victory.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff did reveal, however, that Hamilton had been left “disillusioned” by how the closing stages of the Grand Prix were allowed to unfold by race director Michael Masi.

In withdrawing their appeals in the aftermath of the race, Mercedes confirmed that would “actively work” with the FIA to “build a better Formula One”.

That process has since been thrown into doubt, however, after Sky Sports reporter Craig Slater said that Hamilton and Mercedes had yet to see meaningful changes following the FIA’s investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“All the options might be on the table, even a sabbatical year for Lewis if he doesn’t feel ready to come back in 2022,” Slater said.

“As far as the team is concerned, the onus is on the FIA to make good on their pledge to investigate that final lap in Abu Dhabi and to come up with some findings.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

F1 news

18:20 , Karl Matchett

Age isn’t the only relevant factor when it comes to who is the more experienced head in a team, says Daniel Ricciardo. He and Lando Norris dovetailed nicely for McLaren in 2021 and good things are expected once more in the upcoming season - and the Australian isn’t worried about his pride being hurt by the younger driver upstaging him.

“We’ve definitely learned from each other this year,” said Ricciardo said, per GPFans.

“Even the times where he [Norris] has been quicker he’s still taken some things from me. I don’t want to say it’s 50-50. I’ve probably taken more from him from a driving point of view. If this was his first year in F1 and he just jumped in and was doing what he’s doing, then maybe my pride would be a little hurt! I certainly acknowledge I’ve been in the sport a lot longer, but he is the guy in this team that knows the team. Even like giving feedback, he’ll relate to things.

“So I was quickly aware - forget the years in the sport - this is the more experienced guy, even with just the way he interacts with engineers and that, he knows the guys. So I need to listen to what he’s saying and try to understand what’s what with the car.”

Norris took 160 points last season, with Ricciardo claiming 115 for the cause to finish eighth in the driver standings. The pair landed a 1-2 in Monza on their finest day of the season.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news

18:00 , Karl Matchett

Valtteri Bottas leaves Mercedes for Alfa Romeo having been a key part of Lewis Hamilton’s success stories over the past few years - but always as a No2 driver. Ultimately, that has pushed him to depart and test himself elsewhere.

A push in his own career was necessary for Bottas to improve further, he believes, and the move to be a team leader was one he wasn’t going to get with the Brit still in place at Mercedes. That said, Bottas told GPFans that he had learned plenty from working with Hamilton which he could take forward.

“I’ve been in a position that I’ve got to know Lewis pretty well as a human being as well, not just as a Formula 1 champion, and learned that he fully deserves everything he’s achieved. He’s got the talent, but then he puts that into good use and he works really hard,” Bottas said.

“When he is in his working mode and in this Formula 1 mode, he’s never leaving any stone unturned and he’s always pushing the team a lot.

“I feel like in the last few years, he’s been more in a lead role, and for me, it’s been quite difficult to try and take a lead role, because he’s been, obviously, here before and he’s pretty dominant in the way he works with a team. Also, setting up the car for sure, I’ve learned a few things, but also many [other] things.”

Bottas did point out that it was a two-way street between the pair at times though, with Hamilton looking to the Finn’s qualifying set-up at times and often speaking well of his team-mate.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news

17:40 , Karl Matchett

Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi has claimed that Esteban Ocon’s surprise victory at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix was not the team’s best moment of the Formula 1 season.

The Frenchman claimed a stunning maiden win in August, capitalising on an off-day for the fastest cars on the grid and holding off Lewis Hamilton to take victory.

He was aided greatly by veteran teammate Fernando Alonso as Alpine claimed a first Grand Prix triumph under their current banner.

However Rossi feels the success in Hungary was not the best indicator of the team’s progress and growth, instead spotlighting Alonso’s podium in Qatar in November and Ocon’s fourth place finish in Saudi Arabia in the penultimate race of the 2021 season.

“It was a great moment in the season, a statement of the good work we did,” commented Rossi on Ocon’s Hungary victory to Motorsport.com.

“But I would say, and it’s surprising for everyone, it wasn’t as much as the 19 points we scored for the podium and fifth place in Qatar, or the strong finish with Esteban’s fourth place in Saudi Arabia.”

Full report on why it’s points over prizes for Rossi and Alpine right here:

Ocon win at Hungarian GP ranked by Alpine chief as team’s third-best moment in 2021

F1 news

17:20 , Karl Matchett

Sergio Perez’s tactics at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have been defended by Red Bull as “very fair” after Lewis Hamilton accused the Mexican of driving dangerously.

Hamilton was frustrated by his inability to get past the teammate of title rival Max Verstappen during the race in the United Arab Emirates, and was heard over race radio calling Perez’s driving “dangerous”.

The Mercedes driver would miss out on a record eighth world title as Verstappen took both race and Drivers’ Championship victory in a dramatic, controversial finish to the season-ending Grand Prix.

He was slowed considerably by the efforts of Perez, but Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko has insisted there was nothing untoward in the manner in which Hamilton was stalled - and praised Perez for being a “team player”.

“He slowed down Hamilton by eight seconds in two laps, but in a very fair way,” Marko told ServusTV.

Full report:

Sergio Perez’s ‘dangerous driving’ defended by Red Bull chief

F1 news

17:00 , Karl Matchett

Max Verstappen’s father Jos has revealed his son viewed him as a “lunatic” for his role in making the Dutchman the “man to beat” in Formula 1.

A former Formula 1 driver himself who recorded two podium finishes during the 1994 season, Jos played a key role in the younger Verstappen’s development into a world champion.

And the 49-year-old has now revealed the lengths he went to in order to compel his son to push harder in qualifying during his single season at Formula 3 level in 2014.

“I even hung over the pit wall in Formula 3 to encourage him to go faster. I have to say, it helped,” said Jos during an interview with CarNext, according to GPFans.

“He saw me as a lunatic. Hanging over the pit wall. Luckily, he doesn’t need that now. It’s in him and he brings it out now. He knows how to qualify.”

Read the full report here on how Verstappen searched for the “perfect lap”:

Max Verstappen’s father acted like a ‘lunatic’ to improve son’s driving

F1 news

16:41 , Karl Matchett

Red Bull boss Helmut Marko has accused Lewis Hamilton of leading a “media-loving life” when describing what’s different between the seven-time champion and Max Verstappen.

The two rivals have different personalities and approaches to the media. But of late Hamilton hasn’t been appearing publicly and has hardly been seen since Verstappen denied him a record eighth world title. The pair headed into the final race of the season on equal points and the Dutchman overtook the Mercedes star in the last lap.

“There is the seven-time world champion who leads a rather media-loving life,” Marko told ServusTV.

Hamilton was pictured at Windsor Castle just days after losing in controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to receive his knighthood. But since then he hasn’t made a statement or been on social media.

Full details here:

Red Bull chief criticises Lewis Hamilton for ‘media-loving life’

F1 news

16:19 , Karl Matchett

Formula 1 has been warned to not permit “preferential” communications between teams and the FIA.

A controversial ending to the 2021 season, which saw Max Verstappen edge out Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, has raised concerns surrounding the Briton’s future, with the legendary Alain Prost even claiming the Mercedes star “could be finished”. A bitter taste was left for Mercedes with Toto Wolff irate and criticism levelled at race director Michael Masi’s decision to only allow some lapped cars to overtake the safety car before the final lap.

And with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner appearing to pressurise Masi to clear the way for his Belgian-Dutch superstar, Lord Peter Hain, a Labour peer and Vice-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Formula 1, has called for boundaries to be set.

He told the Express: “There has to be integrity all around. There can’t be preferential communications with certain teams rather than others. I think that’s the important thing

“There must be no repeat of this.”

There has even been calls for the line of communication between the FIA and teams to be cut off after the drama involving Horner and Wolff in Abu Dhabi.

Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of motorsports, is keen to eliminate the potential for teams to exert pressure on the FIA to implement certain rules.

“We will stop this contact next year,” Brawn told Auto Motor und Sport.

“It’s unacceptable that team bosses put Michael under such pressure during the race. It’s like the coaches negotiating with the referee in football. Toto can’t demand there shouldn’t be a Safety Car and Christian can’t demand the cars have to un-lap. That’s at the discretion of the race director.”

F1 news

16:00 , Karl Matchett

Audi are out to “surprise” with their plans in motorsport but have insisted they remain focussed on the Dakar Rally and 24 Hours of Le Mans as rumours swirl over a possible entry on to the Formula 1 grid.

The German manufacturer has been widely tipped to join F1 at the change of engine regulations before the 2026 season, either as a constructor outright or an engine supplier.

The Bavaria-based subsidiary of the Volkswagen group has been connected with a buyout of Mercedes, and Sport1 has said that Audi remain interested in a stake.

Oliver Hoffmann, Audi’s Chief Development Officer, did not directly deny Audi’s F1 plans, but claimed their attention remains fixed on more immediate projects, like the ongoing Dakar Rally, and next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We want to surprise with our motorsport projects,” said Hoffmann, quoted by Sport1.

Full report:

Audi want to ‘surprise’ motorsport as F1 rumours swirl

F1 news

15:41 , Karl Matchett

There is only a “50-50” chance that Lewis Hamilton returns to Formula One for the 2022 season, according to four-time world champion Alain Prost.

Hamilton is said to be “disillusioned” with the sport after he lost out on a record-breaking eighth world championship to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season in a hugely controversial season-decider at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last month.

There have been reports that Hamilton and Mercedes have yet to receive assurances from the FIA that there will be changes to how race rules are enforced from next season, following team boss Toto Wolff’s criticism of race director Michael Masi at the Yas Marina Circuit.

In withdrawing their appeal of the race result, Mercedes confirmed they would “actively work” with the FIA to “build a better Formula One” but there have been reports that Hamilton is now considering taking a sabbatical, with just over two months ahead of the start of the 2022 campaign.

Lewis Hamilton only ‘50-50’ to return to F1 for 2022 season, Alain Prost claims

F1 news

15:17 , Karl Matchett

Formula 1 engineers will perform some “trickery” to capitalise on the sport’s new regulations, according to McLaren technical director James Key.

After a thrilling 2021 season which saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen dominate throughout, F1 has drafted in new regulations to shake up the sport in pursuit of greater variance.

The sport will see a change to the aerodynamic composition of the cars. While simplified front and rear wings should result in minimal turbulent air created as well as enabling cars to follow through technical sections across all the circuits on the schedule.

And after much discussion and debate surrounding rear wings and more stringent FIA tests, Key has shed light on the impact they will have next season.

“I think the sensitivities around elastics certainly have changed,” Key said. “It’s well understood that from the regulations that have been discussed of late with how to better manage flexible…I shouldn’t say flexible components but components that can flex and make a difference is probably more accurate.

“Some of the tests are more stringent I think so the rear wing tests, for example, will be a little bit tougher. Some of the things that have happened earlier in the year have carried through into ’22 and I think there is a lot of attention being paid to that.

“Front wings similarly, and the front wing in ’22 is a massive thing but it has still got a stringent set of guidelines on stiffnesses. So I think there will always be a few tricks to play but I don’t think there’s going to be something easy to exploit there.”

Key maintains “a certain level of stiffness” to the car can be exploited through the big ground-effect floor and the return of big wings.

He added: “There are various new tools to play with in 2022. It will probably become some sort of issue I’m sure, but it’s not something that the teams or the FIA are ignoring.

“It’s a fairly clear area where we need to be careful to regulate correctly.”

F1 news

14:58 , Karl Matchett

Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo believes people don’t consider drivers’ feelings when they are criticised by fans and in the media.

The Australian star says travelling around the world and being away from family and friends can take their toll on F1 drivers. He adds he has been “lonely” during a season before and people outside of the sport should be mindful that they are “real people”.

“I think with anyone in the spotlight or anyone on TV, sometimes to the outside they are not seen as, like, real people,” he said, per Autosport.com.

“It’s like, if you’re an actor…oh, that’s Brad Pitt. He’s superman. He could do anything or whatever. Like he doesn’t get sad or emotional or whatever. But as you know, you guys would feel it, we travel so much that you do miss loved ones. So having that kind of times 10 is tricky.”

Full report here:

Daniel Ricciardo believes drivers’ emotions aren’t taken into account

Mercedes ‘deny’ rumours of deal being struck to replace F1 race director Michael Masi

14:40 , Karl Matchett

Last season’s final race was a real showstopper for entertainment - but the end result and how it came about left Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and many fans of the sport incredibly unhappy. The decision of Michael Masi, the race director, to unlap only the cars between Max Verstappen and Hamilton, who was leading at the time, was seen as a very obvious move to inject last-lap drama into the championship fight.

BBC Sport claim sources tell them a deal was struck between Mercedes and F1 authorities that the team would “drop their appeal against the results of the race after agreeing a quid pro quo with the FIA”, namely that Masi and “FIA head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis would no longer be in their positions for the 2022 season.”

Mercedes deny that such a deal was ever in place, according to the same report, and say they withdrew their appeal “after receiving assurances only that the issue would be treated seriously and appropriate action would be taken”.

Toto Wolff was furious with Masi on the day and has since stated that the team would hold the FIA “to account”.

Latest F1 news

14:20 , Karl Matchett

Pierre Gasly knows there are plenty of uncertainties over how teams will interpret the new incoming rules in F1 and it could see teams fire up the leaderboard early on - or slide the other way. The AlphaTauri driver isn’t wasting too much time worrying about whether his team will get it right or wrong, but pointed out that the nature of F1 means it’s more exciting to be involved nearer the front - and often, people won’t even notice a “moment of genius” if it doesn’t happen among the front-runners.

“I’m aware of that [and] I’m aware at the same time I’m looking at the other side, maybe McLaren might get it wrong, Ferrari might get it wrong, Alpine might get it wrong.

“There’s just many unknowns that I don’t have the answer [to]. I hope we are as good because when you start to fight for P12, P13, these sorts of positions, [it] is not as exciting and obviously, people don’t even really see your performances.

“You can do an amazing race but as I say, whether Mick [Schumacher] delivers the performance of his life in a Haas because the pace is so far from the others, even if he has a moment of genius, no one will ever notice, except he will know that he’s done an incredible job.

“It was probably for whatever reason in the best zone he’s ever been but if you are at the back, no one cares, and no one sees it.

“It’s difficult to enjoy, even to get the results and the reward. As you learn in motorsport, if you do a good job, you get rewarded with a trophy, champagne, but F1 is a different story and that’s not always easy to accept.”

F1 latest news

14:00 , Karl Matchett

Today’s top stories so far in Formula One centre around Audi’s rumoured involvement in the sport in future and the two Red Bull drivers in the spotlight.

F1 news

13:47 , Karl Matchett

Antonio Giovinazzi is remaining hopeful that he’ll make a return to Formula One, after being cut from Alfa Romeo at the end of last season.

Despite three years with the team they opted against a renewal and he will be Ferrari’s reserve driver this year, splitting the role with Mick Schumacher.

But that’s far from the extent of his ambitions and he told Formula1.com that he’s aiming for a comeback just as others have done.

“I’m leaving for now. I posted my first picture in a F1 car when I was three years old on my social media. The last picture [in F1] is not this year. We saw already many drivers have stopped for one year and come back, like Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon,” he said.

“On my side, I had two years reserve driving for Ferrari in 2017 and 2018 and finally got my chance in 2019. You never know what will happen in F1.

“One of the things I will do next is keep one foot in the F1 paddock. I’m still part of the Ferrari family. We’re trying to have the same things next year; it’s important to stay here and see if there is a chance in 2023. We’re looking for this, and I’d be happy to continue with them.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news

13:34 , Karl Matchett

Fernando Alonso has named the two drivers who had him enthralled during his year away from F1 - and added in a third upon being cheekily interrupted by Daniel Ricciardo in an interview with Formula One.

“I said at the beginning of the championship as well, before it had even started, in Bahrain, that the driver that impressed me more when I was at home watching on TV was George [Russell], on the performance in the Williams, and Max [Verstappen]. Those were the two guys that I was switching on the TV [for],” Alonso said.

“And Daniel because he was in the Renault and that car was very interesting to me last year! But no, I mean, they were giving something extra and that was the reason why I was putting on the TV.”

Alonso will have surgery in January to remove plates in his face from a cycling crash last year, before preparing for the new season where he hopes Alpine can make real progress.

“It’s up to us to do a good car; we will either do it or learn from our mistakes. But there are no more [excuses]: [we cannot say] we have less budget or we have less resources or they are using two wind tunnels. There are no more [of] all those things so it is up to us.”

McLaren oppose raising cost cap for F1 sprint races

13:16 , Karl Matchett

McLaren CEO Zak Brown says his team entirely oppose any raising of the cost cap for sprints.

F1’s limit of $140m for the 2022 season should be raised to compensate for potential crash damage with the addition of sprint qualifying, some teams have argued, leading to a $450,000 add-on - with six of these weekends to be seen in the new, upcoming campaign.

Brown revealed certain teams are fighting for the cap to be raised again, but McLaren will be standing firm in opposing it.

Some teams want to take the opportunity to raise the cost cap,” he said, per Motorsport-Total.com.

“We are strongly opposed to increasing the cost cap. So we will have to deal with this issue.

“The reality is there was very little damage last year. They made a report on the damage in the first round and that report showed there was very little damage. We assumed anyway there would be very little damage, and it turned out there was very little damage.

“Some teams want to take the opportunity to increase the budget by a ridiculous amount. For some teams it may be new that they have to manage a budget, but I think that’s in the spirit of the sport. We have to resist the fact certain teams are taking the opportunity to try to constantly increase that.”

McLaren boss reveals hopes that ‘three or four cars’ compete for F1 title in 2022

13:00 , Karl Matchett

McLaren team boss Zak Brown hopes the introduction of new regulations in Formula One ahead of the 2022 season will make the fight for the drivers’ championship a more open competition this year.

Changes to promote closer racing and increase overtaking opportunities will come into force ahead of the start of the new campaign in March, in the first major shake up of F1’s rules since 2014.

With the 2022 season therefore providing teams a clean slate, Brown would like to see several teams heading into the final Grand Prix of the season with a chance of winning the title, after a campaign which saw Mercedes and Red Bull win the majority of races.

“My hopes are that we go into Abu Dhabi next year with three or four cars who can compete for the championship, I think that’s the ultimate goal,” Brown said.

“I think this year has been spectacular, up and down the grid, and I hope with what has been put in place and the new car designs, and the intent of the new aerodynamic package, that what we’re seeing now is just a taste of the future.”

McLaren made significant strides last campaign, winning their first race in nine years as Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Lando Norris also enjoyed an impressive first half of the campaign, as McLaren battled with Ferrari for third place in the constructors, a fight eventually won by the Italian team.

There have been some fears that the change of regulations could bring a new era of dominance for one team if they get ahead of the pack early, as was seen in 2009 as Brawn surged to the title and in 2014 when Mercedes took advantage.

But Brown believes that it will be a different story this time around, predicting a tightening of the field.

“I’d be very surprised if next year was a boring campaign with the new cars,” Brown said. “I think you’ll get some winners and losers and some surprises. I’d be surprised if there was dominance.

“You could get a team who is maybe dominant for a small period of time like Brawn was when they figured out something in 2009. But I think with the cost cap now in place, you can feel the tension that is put on the teams who stopped developing this car in expensive of next year.

“I’d be surprised if the field didn’t continue to get closer.”

Lewis Hamilton ‘sabbatical year’ raised as possibility for 2022

12:46 , Karl Matchett

Lewis Hamilton could take a “sabbatical year” from Formula One if he does not receive assurances from the FIA that there will be changes to how its rules are enforced ahead of next season, it was been warned.

Hamilton lost out on a record-breaking eighth F1 title to Max Verstappen on the last lap of the season at a hugely controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last month.

The 36-year-old is still yet to add any further comment on the result of the race, after Mercedes withdrew their appeal of Verstappen’s championship victory.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff did reveal, however, that Hamilton had been left “disillusioned” by how the closing stages of the Grand Prix were allowed to unfold by race director Michael Masi.

In withdrawing their appeals in the aftermath of the race, Mercedes confirmed that would “actively work” with the FIA to “build a better Formula One”.

That process has since been thrown into doubt, however, after Sky Sports reporter Craig Slater said that Hamilton and Mercedes had yet to see meaningful changes following the FIA’s investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“All the options might be on the table, even a sabbatical year for Lewis if he doesn’t feel ready to come back in 2022,” Slater said.

“As far as the team is concerned, the onus is on the FIA to make good on their pledge to investigate that final lap in Abu Dhabi and to come up with some findings.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo pride not hurt by Lando Norris performance at McLaren

12:33 , Karl Matchett

Age isn’t the only relevant factor when it comes to who is the more experienced head in a team, says Daniel Ricciardo. He and Lando Norris dovetailed nicely for McLaren in 2021 and good things are expected once more in the upcoming season - and the Australian isn’t worried about his pride being hurt by the younger driver upstaging him.

“We’ve definitely learned from each other this year,” said Ricciardo said, per GPFans.

“Even the times where he [Norris] has been quicker he’s still taken some things from me. I don’t want to say it’s 50-50. I’ve probably taken more from him from a driving point of view. If this was his first year in F1 and he just jumped in and was doing what he’s doing, then maybe my pride would be a little hurt! I certainly acknowledge I’ve been in the sport a lot longer, but he is the guy in this team that knows the team. Even like giving feedback, he’ll relate to things.

“So I was quickly aware - forget the years in the sport - this is the more experienced guy, even with just the way he interacts with engineers and that, he knows the guys. So I need to listen to what he’s saying and try to understand what’s what with the car.”

Norris took 160 points last season, with Ricciardo claiming 115 for the cause to finish eighth in the driver standings. The pair landed a 1-2 in Monza on their finest day of the season.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 news

12:14 , Karl Matchett

One to watch?

Cem Bolukbasi has become the first person to graduate from the Esports Series to Formula 2 - and he’s made that leap from the screens to the track in just five years. He has spoken about his eventual aim to become an F1 driver and now he’s just one step away.

He’ll be racing for Charouz Racing Systems in the 2022 championship.

Lewis Hamilton’s status at Mercedes led Valtteri Bottas to seek out lead role elsewhere

12:00 , Karl Matchett

Valtteri Bottas leaves Mercedes for Alfa Romeo having been a key part of Lewis Hamilton’s success stories over the past few years - but always as a No2 driver. Ultimately, that has pushed him to depart and test himself elsewhere.

A push in his own career was necessary for Bottas to improve further, he believes, and the move to be a team leader was one he wasn’t going to get with the Brit still in place at Mercedes. That said, Bottas told GPFans that he had learned plenty from working with Hamilton which he could take forward.

“I’ve been in a position that I’ve got to know Lewis pretty well as a human being as well, not just as a Formula 1 champion, and learned that he fully deserves everything he’s achieved. He’s got the talent, but then he puts that into good use and he works really hard,” Bottas said.

“When he is in his working mode and in this Formula 1 mode, he’s never leaving any stone unturned and he’s always pushing the team a lot.

“I feel like in the last few years, he’s been more in a lead role, and for me, it’s been quite difficult to try and take a lead role, because he’s been, obviously, here before and he’s pretty dominant in the way he works with a team. Also, setting up the car for sure, I’ve learned a few things, but also many [other] things.”

Bottas did point out that it was a two-way street between the pair at times though, with Hamilton looking to the Finn’s qualifying set-up at times and often speaking well of his team-mate.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Esteban Ocon win at Hungarian Grand Prix ranked by Alpine chief as third-best moment for team in 2021

11:44 , Karl Matchett

Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi has claimed that Esteban Ocon’s surprise victory at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix was not the team’s best moment of the Formula 1 season.

The Frenchman claimed a stunning maiden win in August, capitalising on an off-day for the fastest cars on the grid and holding off Lewis Hamilton to take victory.

He was aided greatly by veteran teammate Fernando Alonso as Alpine claimed a first Grand Prix triumph under their current banner.

However Rossi feels the success in Hungary was not the best indicator of the team’s progress and growth, instead spotlighting Alonso’s podium in Qatar in November and Ocon’s fourth place finish in Saudi Arabia in the penultimate race of the 2021 season.

“It was a great moment in the season, a statement of the good work we did,” commented Rossi on Ocon’s Hungary victory to Motorsport.com.

“But I would say, and it’s surprising for everyone, it wasn’t as much as the 19 points we scored for the podium and fifth place in Qatar, or the strong finish with Esteban’s fourth place in Saudi Arabia.”

Full report on why it’s points over prizes for Rossi and Alpine right here:

Ocon win at Hungarian GP ranked by Alpine chief as team’s third-best moment in 2021

Sergio Perez’s ‘dangerous driving’ defended by Red Bull chief

11:28 , Karl Matchett

Sergio Perez’s tactics at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have been defended by Red Bull as “very fair” after Lewis Hamilton accused the Mexican of driving dangerously.

Hamilton was frustrated by his inability to get past the teammate of title rival Max Verstappen during the race in the United Arab Emirates, and was heard over race radio calling Perez’s driving “dangerous”.

The Mercedes driver would miss out on a record eighth world title as Verstappen took both race and Drivers’ Championship victory in a dramatic, controversial finish to the season-ending Grand Prix.

He was slowed considerably by the efforts of Perez, but Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko has insisted there was nothing untoward in the manner in which Hamilton was stalled - and praised Perez for being a “team player”.

“He slowed down Hamilton by eight seconds in two laps, but in a very fair way,” Marko told ServusTV.

Full report:

Sergio Perez’s ‘dangerous driving’ defended by Red Bull chief

Max Verstappen’s father acted like a ‘lunatic’ to improve son’s driving

11:11 , Karl Matchett

Max Verstappen’s father Jos has revealed his son viewed him as a “lunatic” for his role in making the Dutchman the “man to beat” in Formula 1.

A former Formula 1 driver himself who recorded two podium finishes during the 1994 season, Jos played a key role in the younger Verstappen’s development into a world champion.

And the 49-year-old has now revealed the lengths he went to in order to compel his son to push harder in qualifying during his single season at Formula 3 level in 2014.

“I even hung over the pit wall in Formula 3 to encourage him to go faster. I have to say, it helped,” said Jos during an interview with CarNext, according to GPFans.

“He saw me as a lunatic. Hanging over the pit wall. Luckily, he doesn’t need that now. It’s in him and he brings it out now. He knows how to qualify.”

Read the full quotes here on how Verstappen searched for the “perfect lap”:

Max Verstappen’s father acted like a ‘lunatic’ to improve son’s driving

Red Bull chief criticises Lewis Hamilton for ‘media-loving life’

10:58 , Karl Matchett

Red Bull boss Helmut Marko has accused Lewis Hamilton of leading a “media-loving life” when describing what’s different between the seven-time champion and Max Verstappen.

The two rivals have different personalities and approaches to the media. But of late Hamilton hasn’t been appearing publicly and has hardly been seen since Verstappen denied him a record eighth world title. The pair headed into the final race of the season on equal points and the Dutchman overtook the Mercedes star in the last lap.

“There is the seven-time world champion who leads a rather media-loving life,” Marko told ServusTV.

Hamilton was pictured at Windsor Castle just days after losing in controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to receive his knighthood. But since then he hasn’t made a statement or been on social media.

Full details:

Red Bull chief criticises Lewis Hamilton for ‘media-loving life’

FIA warned against ‘preferential’ team radios after Wolff and Horner controversy

10:42 , Karl Matchett

Formula 1 has been warned to not permit “preferential” communications between teams and the FIA.

A controversial ending to the 2021 season, which saw Max Verstappen edge out Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, has raised concerns surrounding the Briton’s future, with the legendary Alain Prost even claiming the Mercedes star “could be finished”.

A bitter taste was left for Mercedes with Toto Wolff irate and criticism levelled at race director Michael Masi’s decision to only allow some lapped cars to overtake the safety car before the final lap.

And with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner appearing to pressurise Masi to clear the way for his Belgian-Dutch superstar, Lord Peter Hain, a Labour peer and Vice-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Formula 1, has called for boundaries to be set.

He told the Express: “There has to be integrity all around. There can’t be preferential communications with certain teams rather than others. I think that’s the important thing

“There must be no repeat of this.”

There has even been calls for the line of communication between the FIA and teams to be cut off after the drama involving Horner and Wolff in Abu Dhabi.

Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of motorsports, is keen to eliminate the potential for teams to exert pressure on the FIA to implement certain rules.

“We will stop this contact next year,” Brawn told Auto Motor und Sport.

“It’s unacceptable that team bosses put Michael under such pressure during the race. It’s like the coaches negotiating with the referee in football.

“Toto can’t demand there shouldn’t be a Safety Car and Christian can’t demand the cars have to un-lap. That’s at the discretion of the race director.”

Audi want to ‘surprise’ motorsport as F1 rumours swirl

10:33 , Karl Matchett

Audi are out to “surprise” with their plans in motorsport but have insisted they remain focussed on the Dakar Rally and 24 Hours of Le Mans as rumours swirl over a possible entry on to the Formula 1 grid.

The German manufacturer has been widely tipped to join F1 at the change of engine regulations before the 2026 season, either as a constructor outright or an engine supplier.

The Bavaria-based subsidiary of the Volkswagen group has been connected with a buyout of Mercedes, and Sport1 has said that Audi remain interested in a stake.

Oliver Hoffmann, Audi’s Chief Development Officer, did not directly deny Audi’s F1 plans, but claimed their attention remains fixed on more immediate projects, like the ongoing Dakar Rally, and next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We want to surprise with our motorsport projects,” said Hoffmann, quoted by Sport1.

Full report:

Audi want to ‘surprise’ motorsport as F1 rumours swirl

Pierre Gasly explains why in F1 a ‘moment of genius’ can be missed be everyone

10:14 , Karl Matchett

Pierre Gasly knows there are plenty of uncertainties over how teams will interpret the new incoming rules in F1 and it could see teams fire up the leaderboard early on - or slide the other way. The AlphaTauri driver isn’t wasting too much time worrying about whether his team will get it right or wrong, but pointed out that the nature of F1 means it’s more exciting to be involved nearer the front - and often, people won’t even notice a “moment of genius” if it doesn’t happen among the front-runners.

“I’m aware of that [and] I’m aware at the same time I’m looking at the other side, maybe McLaren might get it wrong, Ferrari might get it wrong, Alpine might get it wrong.

“There’s just many unknowns that I don’t have the answer [to]. I hope we are as good because when you start to fight for P12, P13, these sorts of positions, [it] is not as exciting and obviously, people don’t even really see your performances.

“You can do an amazing race but as I say, whether Mick [Schumacher] delivers the performance of his life in a Haas because the pace is so far from the others, even if he has a moment of genius, no one will ever notice, except he will know that he’s done an incredible job.

“It was probably for whatever reason in the best zone he’s ever been but if you are at the back, no one cares, and no one sees it.

“It’s difficult to enjoy, even to get the results and the reward. As you learn in motorsport, if you do a good job, you get rewarded with a trophy, champagne, but F1 is a different story and that’s not always easy to accept.”

Mercedes ‘deny’ rumours of deal being struck to replace F1 race director Michael Masi

09:57 , Karl Matchett

Last season’s final race was a real showstopper for entertainment - but the end result and how it came about left Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and many fans of the sport incredibly unhappy. The decision of Michael Masi, the race director, to unlap only the cars between Max Verstappen and Hamilton, who was leading at the time, was seen as a very obvious move to inject last-lap drama into the championship fight.

BBC Sport claim sources tell them a deal was struck between Mercedes and F1 authorities that the team would “drop their appeal against the results of the race after agreeing a quid pro quo with the FIA”, namely that Masi and “FIA head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis would no longer be in their positions for the 2022 season.”

Mercedes deny that such a deal was ever in place, according to the same report, and say they withdrew their appeal “after receiving assurances only that the issue would be treated seriously and appropriate action would be taken”.

Toto Wolff was furious with Masi on the day and has since stated that the team would hold the FIA “to account”.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Former F1 driver Montoya aiming for hat-trick of wins in IndyCar

09:47 , Karl Matchett

Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, a seven-time Grand Prix winner, will rejoin Arrow McLaren in a bid to complete an Indianapolis 500 hat-trick of wins, the IndyCar team said on Tuesday.

Montoya, winner at the Brickyard in 2000 and 2015, drove for Arrow McLaren at last year’s Indy 500, finishing ninth.

“Juan Pablo is an institution in motorsport, with two Indianapolis 500 victories and an impressive Formula 1 career with multiple wins for McLaren,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown in a statement.

“He adds experience that really benefits our team, giving us another driver with the potential to win anytime he steps into the car.”

The 46-year-old Colombian is one of motor racing’s most experienced and versatile drivers having won races in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR.

He also one win away from completing the “Triple Crown of Motorsport” made up of victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, or F1 world title, Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours sportcar race.

Montoya was a winner in Monaco in 2003 and while he has won the 24 Hours of Daytona on three occasions, he has not repeated that success at Le Mans.

Montoya will join full-time Arrow McLaren drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist for two races, the Indianapolis Grand Prix run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course on May 13 and the Indy 500 on May 29.

“I’m excited to return to Indianapolis with Arrow McLaren SP and Mission, to once again compete in a race that holds a special place in my heart, the Indianapolis 500,” said Montoya.

“I think we have a real shot at competing at the front of the field and challenging for the win.”

Daniel Ricciardo believes drivers' emotions aren’t taken into account

09:30 , Karl Matchett

Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo believes people don’t consider drivers’ feelings when they are criticised by fans and in the media.

The Australian star says travelling around the world and being away from family and friends can take their toll on F1 drivers. He adds he has been “lonely” during a season before and people outside of the sport should be mindful that they are “real people”.

“I think with anyone in the spotlight or anyone on TV, sometimes to the outside they are not seen as, like, real people,” he said, per Autosport.com.

“It’s like, if you’re an actor…oh, that’s Brad Pitt. He’s superman. He could do anything or whatever. Like he doesn’t get sad or emotional or whatever. But as you know, you guys would feel it, we travel so much that you do miss loved ones. So having that kind of times 10 is tricky.”

Full report here:

Daniel Ricciardo believes drivers emotions aren’t taken into account

Lewis Hamilton only ‘50-50’ to return to F1 for 2022 season, Alain Prost claims

09:14 , Karl Matchett

There is only a “50-50” chance that Lewis Hamilton returns to Formula One for the 2022 season, according to four-time world champion Alain Prost.

Hamilton is said to be “disillusioned” with the sport after he lost out on a record-breaking eighth world championship to Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season in a hugely controversial season-decider at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last month.

There have been reports that Hamilton and Mercedes have yet to receive assurances from the FIA that there will be changes to how race rules are enforced from next season, following team boss Toto Wolff’s criticism of race director Michael Masi at the Yas Marina Circuit.

In withdrawing their appeal of the race result, Mercedes confirmed they would “actively work” with the FIA to “build a better Formula One” but there have been reports that Hamilton is now considering taking a sabbatical, with just over two months ahead of the start of the 2022 campaign.

Full report:

Lewis Hamilton only ‘50-50’ to return to F1 for 2022 season, Alain Prost claims

F1 teams expected to play ‘a few tricks’ to exploit 2022 rule changes

09:13 , Karl Matchett

Formula 1 engineers will perform some “trickery” to capitalise on the sport’s new regulations, according to McLaren technical director James Key.

After a thrilling 2021 season which saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen dominate throughout, F1 has drafted in new regulations to shake up the sport in pursuit of greater variance.

The sport will see a change to the aerodynamic composition of the cars. While simplified front and rear wings should result in minimal turbulent air created as well as enabling cars to follow through technical sections across all the circuits on the schedule.

And after much discussion and debate surrounding rear wings and more stringent FIA tests, Key has shed light on the impact they will have next season.

“I think the sensitivities around elastics certainly have changed,” Key said. “It’s well understood that from the regulations that have been discussed of late with how to better manage flexible…I shouldn’t say flexible components but components that can flex and make a difference is probably more accurate.

“Some of the tests are more stringent I think so the rear wing tests, for example, will be a little bit tougher. Some of the things that have happened earlier in the year have carried through into ’22 and I think there is a lot of attention being paid to that.

“Front wings similarly, and the front wing in ’22 is a massive thing but it has still got a stringent set of guidelines on stiffnesses. So I think there will always be a few tricks to play but I don’t think there’s going to be something easy to exploit there.”

Key maintains “a certain level of stiffness” to the car can be exploited through the big ground-effect floor and the return of big wings.

He added: “There are various new tools to play with in 2022. It will probably become some sort of issue I’m sure, but it’s not something that the teams or the FIA are ignoring.

“It’s a fairly clear area where we need to be careful to regulate correctly.”

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