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Formula One's Latest Rumours and Talk: Stefano Domenicali, Gene Haas and More

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2014

Formula One's Latest Rumours and Talk: Stefano Domenicali, Gene Haas and More

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    It's a time of great arrivals and departures in the Formula One world this week.

    Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari's team principal since 2008, resigned on Monday following another disappointing start to the season for the Italian team.

    On the same day over at Mercedes, it was announced that technical director Bob Bell would be leaving his post at the end of the year.

    In the arrivals terminal, Gene Haas set out more details about his new team.

    Daniel Ricciardo is set to discover whether Red Bull's appeal against his disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix has been successful.

    Read on for a round-up of the week's biggest F1 news.

Haas Formula Could Defer Entry Until 2016, but 2015 Is the Goal

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    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Gene Haas's new F1 team has the option to defer its entry until the start of 2016, if everything cannot be got ready in time.

    Haas told a press conference (h/t f1zone.net):

    I would like to do 2015 simply because I think the first year is going to be a difficult year no matter what happens.

    It’s a very big challenge and part of that learning curve is just simply getting to the track and sorting out the logistics of going from race to race and the sooner we learn that the sooner we will be done with that.

    I would like 2015 but depending on who we selected with our partner I don’t know if they can provide all the infrastructure and technology we would need. I think it’s one of those things we’re going to have to find out in the next few weeks.

    The deadline set by the FIA for a final decision is in June.

    If Haas does pick 2015, he won't be building his own cars—mainly because there isn't enough time. He will instead turn to Italian company Dallara, whose last involvement in F1 was building the chassis for now-defunct backmarkers HRT.

    But Haas will send some of his own people to the Dallara factory to help his team prepare for becoming a proper constructor in the near future.

    He has already started work on expanding his NASCAR team's base at Kannapolis, USA, to accommodate an F1 operation, and he is looking at establishing a European base in Italy or Germany.

Haas Wants a Mixture of Youth and Experience

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    Alexander Rossi
    Alexander RossiJon Super

    Sticking with Haas, because it's the biggest story of the week, the new team boss also revealed his plans for next year's driver line-up.

    Without giving away any names under consideration, Haas said he's after a mix of youth and experience. He told a press conference (h/t thecheckeredflag.co.uk):

    Ideally, what I think we’d like would be to have an experienced Formula 1 driver; probably someone who is familiar with the current engine package rules. They change quite a bit even from last year.

    Then going forward we’d certainly like to have a young American driver. That would be the ideal situation. But at the moment we haven’t really narrowed it down.

    That will definitely alert Alexander Rossi, perhaps the only American youngster who'd be ready for F1 right now. But Conor Daly was third in last season's GP3 championship, and a good year in GP2 in 2014 might put him in contention if Haas delays his decision.

    As for the experienced men in the frame, Jean-Eric Vergne might be an option. He's unlikely to retain his Toro Rosso seat when the season ends, and he will have the required experience of the new engines.

    Kamui Kobayashi is another name to consider, along with Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.

Stefano Domenicali Replaced by Marco Mattiaci

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Ferrari revealed on Monday that Stefano Domenicali had resigned from his position as team principal after yet another disappointing start to a season.

    It marks the end of a 23-year career with Ferrari.

    He will be replaced by Marco Mattiacci. In a statement on the Ferrari team website, Domenicali said:

    As the boss, I take responsibility, as I have always done, for our current situation. This decision has been taken with the aim of doing something to shake things up and for the good of this group of people that I feel very close to.

    With all my heart, I thank all the men and women in the team, the drivers and the partners for the wonderful relationship we have enjoyed over all these years.

    Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo said in a statement:

    I thank Stefano Domenicali, not only for his constant dedication and effort, but also for the great sense of responsibility he has shown, even today, in always putting the interests of Ferrari above all else.

    I also want to wish all the best to Marco Mattiacci, whom I know to be a highly regarded manager and who knows the company well. He has accepted this challenge with enthusiasm.

    Mattiacci will be seen by some as a curious choice. He has worked for Ferrari since 1999, but never with the F1 team. Rather, he comes from the road-car side, where he is the CEO and President of Ferrari North America.

    He's well known and respected within the organisation, but almost totally unknown on the outside. Until yesterday, he didn't even have a Wikipedia page.

    It's unclear whether Mattiacci will have full control over the team. Ferrari may decide to go down the Mercedes route of having separate chiefs for business and sporting affairs.

Technical Director Bob Bell Set to Leave Mercedes

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Monday was a big day for big departures.

    Mercedes announced in a short statement on their website that technical director Bob Bell will leave the team at the end of the season.

    He will not be replaced, with the team choosing to give Bell's responsibilities to Paddy Lowe, whose job title is Executive Director (Technical).

    Bell started his F1 career at McLaren in 1982, before spells at Benetton and Jordan.

    He moved to Renault in 2003. Bell was technical director at Renault when Fernando Alonso won his two world titles, and he has been instrumental in the design of the current Mercedes W05.

    The team statement said Bell put in his notice last December, "with the intention of pursuing new challenges outside the company."

    Bell is unlikely to walk away from F1 altogether, so if he hasn't already agreed a deal elsewhere, his services will be in high demand all the way down the pit lane.

Red Bull's Ricciardo Appeal Verdict Due Tuesday, Mercedes Seek Heavier Penalty

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    Eric Vargiolu

    Red Bull will find out on Tuesday if their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix has been successful.

    Ricciardo finished second but was disqualified because his car repeatedly breached the permitted 100 kilograms-per-hour fuel flow rate.

    Red Bull claim the fuel sensor was faulty, and they ignored requests from the FIA technical delegate to reduce the flow because their own measurements told them they were within the permitted range.

    They hope the disqualification will be overturned and Ricciardo's position and 18 points will be reinstated.

    But some of the Austrian team's rivals believe the disqualification alone isn't enough.

    Mercedes, Force India, McLaren, Lotus and Williams all sent representatives to the hearing, with Mercedes QC Paul Harris calling for a heavy penalty. Autosport reports he told the court:

    We are, frankly, and with great respect, concerned that Red Bull have shown such a flagrant and deliberate disregard for these rules that there is a real risk they will do it again.

    We are here to seek to ensure that that does not happen; we must have a level playing field going forward for the remainder of the season.

    We respectfully submit that the most effective way to ensure that Red Bull do not flout further instructions from the FIA is for this court to recognise the severity of their infringement and to impose a further sanction upon them which is to be suspended for the rest of the season, so that they are acutely aware.

    With Red Bull expected to become Mercedes' closest challengers as the season progresses, those 18 points could turn out to be important at the end of the year.

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