Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Paddock News from 2014 Monaco Grand Prix
It's almost time for the 2014 Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and as usual there's no shortage of drivers and team personnel with something to say.
Lewis Hamilton may or may not have dropped a few mind games into the championship hunt, while Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo has assured Fernando Alonso that those closest to him are appreciative of his talents.
Elsewhere, Jenson Button's fears over the new surface have been allayed, Adrian Newey isn't going to Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo appears to be once again leading the Red Bull charge.
Read on for a roundup of the weekend's news and a special bonus video of a heroic Red Bull mechanic rescuing Kimi Raikkonen from Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton Ramps Up the Mind Games at Mercedes?
Lewis Hamilton has claimed his upbringing may have given him a greater drive to succeed than teammate Nico Rosberg.
He was brought up in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. His parents separated when he was very young, and he lived first with his mother and then, from the age of 12, with his father, who worked multiple jobs to pay for his son's early racing career.
It wasn't what anyone would call a deprived childhood, but it wasn't one of luxury, either. Hamilton compared it to that of Rosberg—brought up in the somewhat opulent setting of Monaco—in an interview with Formula1.com. When asked if he had more "killer instinct" than his teammate, he said:
Let me tell you this: I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment—and Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things—so the hunger is different.
I want to be the hungriest guy in the cockpit from all 22 of us—even if every driver has to believe that he’s the hungriest—because if I were to come here believing that Nico is hungrier than me then I might as well go home. So I’ve got to be the hungriest—to win the world championship you need to be the hungriest.
Mind games, or just an innocent comment which has been used to create some dramatic column inches?
Hard to say, but later in the same interview Hamilton referred to his relationship with Rosberg in a positive manner, saying it will always be respectful, and that his German rival had been looking after his safe for the last few months.
Just as well Nico doesn't wear diamond earrings, or that could have turned nasty.
Luca Di Montezemolo Praises Fernando Alonso After Star Driver Questions Support
Luca di Montezemolo arrived late to the Fernando Alonso Appreciation Party on Thursday, a day after his star driver had hinted at a lack of support within the team.
Responding to Daimler (Mercedes' parent company) chairman Dieter Zetsche's assertion that Alonso is "perhaps" the best F1 driver (h/t Marca, in Spanish), Alonso told reporters in Monaco on Wednesday:
It's always welcome when people see your job in a good way and respect what you try to do and what you try to achieve.
Sometimes it's strange to see good comments and good compliments from people from outside and from the other side that are supposed to be close to you, there are the opposite comments. It's motivating. It's motivating for me and it's good to receive good comments. But it's funny when you see the opposite in your closest friends.
It's highly unlikely Alonso is complaining that he went out for a beer at the weekend and his childhood buddies said he was rubbish, so we can only read his words as a thinly veiled jab at those inside Ferrari.
And that would include Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, who last year gave Alonso a public dressing-down after the Spaniard told Italian media his ideal birthday present would be, "La macchina degli altri"—someone else's car (h/t BBC for the translation).
On this occasion, di Montezemolo chose a different approach, praising Alonso and instead taking a swipe at the F1 media. In an interview published on the Ferrari website, di Montezemolo said:
Fernando is the best driver in the world, who always gives 200% in the races. He knows how much I count on him, even away from the race track, in terms of his contribution and the impetus he gives to the team. I think it’s incredible that there are still some so-called experts who don’t understand that and are always looking for a polemical situation that simply doesn’t exist.
As he can't possibly have been referring to Ferrari personnel, we can only hope that Alonso will clarify at some point who he meant by "the other side that are supposed to be close to you."
Jenson Button's Surface Fears Allayed
Large parts of the Circuit de Monaco were resurfaced prior to the 2014 event. The work was announced in March by the Monaco authorities, with the work carried out in early April.
The new surface starts at Casino Square (Turn 4) and runs through the hairpin complex and tunnel down to the Nouvelle Chicane (Turns 10 and 11). A small section before Tabac (Turn 12) was also included.
The asphalt has been down for less than two months, and Jenson Button was among those raising concerns it could make life difficult.
He said on Wednesday (h/t Formula1.com):
Out of Massenet, from there all the way through the tunnel, it has new asphalt—which we think is probably quite similar to Austin in the first year. It’s going to be very, very low grip. That will be a big issue for everyone.
The Austin situation he is referring to happened in 2012, when the brand new surface at the United States Grand Prix venue left the cars with very little grip all throughout the weekend.
The same situation at a barrier-lined circuit like Monaco would have been more problematic, as an ill-timed slide could easily send a car into the wall. But it appears such fears were a worry over nothing.
After driving on the new tarmac, Button revised his view, telling Formula1.com:
Yesterday, I said that the new asphalt in the middle sector might lack grip, but I’m really pleased to be able to say that the organisers have done a fantastic job with the fresh surface. A lot of circuits could learn from the job they’ve done with the asphalt here: considering it’s brand new, it’s really good—there’s so much grip.
But the praise wasn't universal. Toro Rosso race engineer Phil Charles told the same outlet the surface did indeed lack grip.
Daniel Ricciardo Confident He Can Challenge Mercedes
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is confident his team can challenge Mercedes for victory at the Monaco Grand Prix. After practice, he told Sky Sports News:
The afternoon unfortunately we can't look into too much—but the morning went well.
It's still early but we seem to be there or thereabouts with them [Mercedes]. A few little tweaks over the next 24 hours and for Saturday, if we get it the way we want, we'll give them a run.
The Australian has emerged as Mercedes' closest competitor in recent races, outpacing his teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Ricciardo was only 0.235 seconds shy of Lewis Hamilton's session-best time in first practice, and he has promised to dive off the harbour into the Mediterranean with the trophy in his hands if he wins the race on Sunday.
Four-time world champion Vettel is struggling to get to grips with the lack of exhaust blowing on the RB10, but he managed to set the second-fastest time in the rain-affected second practice.
He was a little less optimistic, telling Formula1.com:
Mercedes were very quick this morning and we see that usually, come Saturday, they are able to pick up their pace, so we'll try to do the same. We potentially are a little bit closer here, but you know at the moment it's all guessing.
The apprentice seems to have the upper hand on the master, at least for the time being. Would anyone have expected such a situation when Ricciardo was announced as a Red Bull driver for 2014?
Adrian Newey Committed to Red Bull—for Now
At the Spanish Grand Prix in early May, rumours emerged, as reported by Sky F1, that Ferrari were attempting to lure design genius Adrian Newey from defending world champions Red Bull.
This week, The Guardian reported the Italian team had offered Newey a staggering £20 million salary to join them.
But the Red Bull chief technical officer is, seemingly, having none of it. He told reporters in Monaco, "I remain committed to Red Bull for the foreseeable future."
Though that seems like a solid statement, an idle speculator couldn't help but note that the "foreseeable future" is the same length as a piece of string.
A Ferrari move always seemed unlikely because Newey is settled and happy in the United Kingdom, and Ferrari are based in Italy.
But perhaps this story hasn't quite reached its conclusion.
Bonus: Video of the Week
Kimi Raikkonen is very quick in a racing car, but he doesn't always move as fast when he's out of one.
During Thursday practice, he was hanging around in the pit lane. Sebastian Vettel was about to set off at racing speed from a practice pit stop, and Kimi was in the way.
Red Bull's Nigel Hope leapt out and dragged a rather confused Raikkonen out of the way.
It's not the first time Hope has been involved in a pit lane drama—he was the mechanic hit by Nico Rosberg's errant wheel in the pit lane during the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix.
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