Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Paddock News from 2014 Canadian Grand Prix
With the 2014 Formula One Canadian Grand Prix taking place on Sunday, the teams and drivers have been in and around Montreal preparing for the seventh round of the season.
The fans are also out in force for F1's first race of the year in the Americas. Those in red will be pleased to hear Fernando Alonso has no intention of retiring until he wins a third world title.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's feud took yet another turn, with both men making relatively positive statements about their relationship.
Bernie Ecclestone's relationship with social media is a little less rosy.
Meanwhile, it has emerged the miniature storm in a teacup regarding Toro Rosso's rolling road test was sparked by anonymous letters sent to the FIA, Ferrari, Mercedes and Sauber.
And on a more sombre note, the legion of volunteer track marshals will this weekend pay tribute to colleague Mark Robinson, who lost his life in an accident following last year's race.
Read on for a full roundup of the top stories going into the race.
Fernando Alonso Won't Retire Until He Adds Third World Title
Fernando Alonso wants at least one more title before he even contemplates retirement.
He told BBC Sport:
We are still hungry for success, waiting for our opportunity to become champion. This is the main goal and you don't think of retiring until you get some satisfaction.
It is something I am working for and hoping for. It is not that I'm not happy with two but the third puts you in a list of very important names.
Those names include Juan Manuel Fangio, Jackie Stewart, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher—men with the statistical record to back up their incredible driving talent.
The 2005 and 2006 champion is 33 next month. But he feels he will be able to remain in the sport for many years to come, perhaps even until he is 40. He said: "I think I can carry on long enough to win and to be competitive for some good years. I don't know how many - three, five, seven. I don't think it should be any problem."
Two championships would be a poor return on a career which is already 14 seasons old. Alonso is a better driver now than he was in the mid-2000s, and if provided with a sufficiently competitive car he could easily add at least one more title.
Maybe next year...
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg Publicly Cool Their Feud
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg appear to be getting on a little better than they were in Monaco.
In qualifying two weeks ago, Rosberg's error at Mirabeau brought out yellow flags and prevented Hamilton setting what he felt would have been a quicker time.
The Brit was furious, believing Rosberg had done it deliberately, and he did not speak to or congratulate his teammate on the podium the following day.
But a little bit of time away from the race track to reflect appears to have mellowed his rage. Last week, Hamilton tweeted a picture of himself and Rosberg as teenagers, and on Thursday was quoted by the BBC as saying:
I've known Nico a long time so we've had a foundation of respect before any of the troubles in F1. Of course it raises tension in the team sometimes when you're fierce competitors, but the respect you have for one another is really important.
We are full steam ahead. We had dinner together with the team yesterday and things are better.
We are going from strength to strength. People have ups and downs so it is no different from years we have been racing together. We move on. There is a long way to go and we are looking forward to that battle.
In Monaco, Rosberg didn't publicly come across as anything but happy that he'd got pole and won the race. But he referred to the tensions on Thursday, quoted by the BBC as saying: "We have difficult periods but the base respect goes back 15 years. We discuss it and move on."
Both men seem to be putting emphasis on respect and perhaps it was that which helped them through this particular hiccup.
But cynics may doubt the sincerity of their words.
Bernie Ecclestone Not Too Bothered by TV Viewing Drop
Despite his vested interest in the sport's commercial success, Bernie Ecclestone isn't—at least publicly—concerned by the recent decline in F1's television ratings.
But Ecclestone doesn't believe decline is what it seems. When asked by Autosport about the drops, he said:
It matters obviously, but when you say it is falling, it is changing. But I think the change that is currently taking place is very shortlived, as these social media people are starting to think it is not as good as they thought.
Regarding F1's underwhelming presence on social media he is apparently blaming for TV viewing figures falling, Ecclestone certainly won't be encouraging a change. He said, "We're commercial...If they find people to pay us [to do that] then I will be happy."
It seems strange he should infer that social media is heavily influencing the TV viewer drops. There's a far greater argument for the decline is being caused by increasing moves to pay-TV providers, which prices many fans (and potential future fans) out of live coverage.
The 53 percent increase in live BBC radio listeners mentioned in the Autosport article is good evidence of this.
Or it could be the racing itself which is turning viewers off.
Marshals to Remember Mark Robinson
Volunteer track marshal Mark Robinson lost his life in an accident following last year's Canadian Grand Prix. As he was escorting a broken-down car back to the pits while it was carried by a crane truck, Robinson was run over by the vehicle.
All marshals at this year's race will wear black armbands to remember their colleague.
The Montreal Gazette reported that an investigation by Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CSST) found that the car was being transported in an unsafe manner, which contributed to the tragedy.
The race organisers were fined and additional training was recommended for all crane operators. This was carried out last week, and it should reduce the risk of similar incidents happening in the future.
Ferrari Already Have Eyes on 2015
Fernando Alonso accepts Ferrari have no chance of catching Mercedes in 2014.
The Italian team are bringing a number of upgrades for the F14 T to the Canadian Grand Prix.
The changes are primarily centred around the powertrain settings—the team now feel able run with more aggressive settings as reliability becomes less of a concern.
Montreal is a circuit which rewards straight-line speed, so while the two Mercedes cars will almost certainly remain out of reach, the Red Bulls might be vulnerable.
But speaking on Thursday, Alonso indicated the 2015 car is already occupying his mind. He said:
Whatever these updates provide us with, we just need to keep working on both sides—on this year, because we need to be fighting for important things like the second place in the constructors' championship, and for next year.
We can't do anything this year that will compromise next year's car. We need to keep developing in 2014 because many things will carry on for next year's car.
But if there is something fundamental that requires a lot of time in the 2015 project then obviously we need to make that time. I'm not worried about this, to be honest.
Admitting defeat after six races was definitely not a position Ferrari wanted to be in at the start of the season.
But transferring resources to the 2015 car earlier in the year may well pay dividends in the future.
Anonymous Letters Sparked Toro Rosso Rolling Road Reports
Earlier in the week, German newspapers Bild and Autobild reported (h/t Autoweek.com) that one of the Red Bull teams (the main team, or Toro Rosso) had conducted a secret rolling road test.
It allegedly took place between the final official preseason test in Bahrain and the Australian Grand Prix, and it was done in an attempt to iron out or better understand issues Renault were having with their powertrain.
Autobild has now reported (h/t Sky F1) that anonymous letters were sent to rival teams and the FIA advising them that the test had taken place, and that Toro Rosso were the team involved. Mercedes, Ferrari and Sauber are said to have received them.
But this one has all the makings of a classic storm in a teacup.
The F1 Sporting Regulations (Appendix 8, Article 5.2 (PDF)) state that rolling road tests are permitted at any time providing certain conditions are followed, and the Autobild report said they were.
Mercedes and Ferrari could have done the same sort of tests—and there's no reason to suspect they didn't.
But maybe they're wishing they had B-teams too, so they wouldn't have to do the donkey work themselves.