Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Paddock News from 2014 Austrian Grand Prix
The 2014 Formula One Austrian Grand Prix marks the return of the sport to Austria for the first time since 2003.
Only four of the current drivers have driven F1 cars around the Red Bull Ring.
Fernando Alonso is one of them, and he revealed this week he hopes to compete at Le Mans once his F1 career is over. But it seems unlikely his current team, Ferrari, will be joining him.
Elsewhere, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's "mind games" continued, the Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa saga rumbled on and two rather silly ideas were thrown out at an F1 Commission meeting on Wednesday.
But one was trialled in Friday practice.
Read on for a full roundup of the top stories heading into the weekend.
Friday Practice Cut and Tyre Warmer Ban Dismissed
The F1 Commission decided on Wednesday to drop plans to cut Friday practice to a single session.
The proposal was for a single practice session to be held late on Friday, to allow local people to attend after they had finished work.
But it proved extremely unpopular among race promoters, and it was they, according to Sky Sports, who had the plan thrown out.
The current format of two sessions will be retained.
At the same meeting, a proposal to outlaw tyre warmers was also rejected, this time due to concerns about safety. Responding to the news at the official pre-race press conference, Daniel Ricciardo said:
I think it’s more for safety, especially at the start of the race when there are a lot of cars in close proximity. I don’t think it’s quite necessary right now to do that. I think we can find other measures or other things, better solutions. I think tyre blankets are still a good thing.
All six drivers present had similar opinions.
Fernando Alonso Heading to Le Mans One Day
Fernando Alonso waved the flag to start the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend, and he is planning a return as a driver once his F1 career is over.
Speaking to the NBCSN's Will Buxton before the Austrian Grand Prix, he said:
It’s a good experience, a good race, and obviously to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans means a lot for any driver, and hopefully I will race there.”
I will, that’s 100%. I need to wait until I finish Formula One probably because it requires some tests, some training, some dedication.
Alonso is unsure if he will go to Le Mans with his current F1 team, Ferrari. He doesn't seem the sort of driver to go to the Circuit de la Sarthe in anything other than a car capable of challenging for the overall win.
That would be an LMP1, and building one of those requires a lot of time, money, effort and testing. Maybe too much for a team also competing in F1.
The Scuderia's President Luca di Montezemolo feels this is the case. Last week he told the Wall Street Journal, "we cannot do sports-car racing and Formula One. It's not possible."
So unless Ferrari hate the current direction of F1 enough to leave, Alonso will be doing Le Mans with someone else.
Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen Spark Up in Austria
Sparks flew during first practice on Friday after Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen had titanium skid-blocks installed under their cars.
They were fitted in the flat wooden plank under their cars. The blocks were in different locations as the teams try to work out the best place to put them for optimal spark-creation. Rosberg had them closer to the front of his plank, with Raikkonen's titanium to the rear.
The hope is to make the cars more visually spectacular, and Rosberg did create a beautiful trail down the pit straight early on. But knowing the sparks were being artificially created did spoil the illusion slightly.
The plans were first revealed in April, with Autosport reporting the teams were looking at ways to create sparks and vapour trails from the wings. They also want to make the brightly glowing brake discs more visible.
The rationale is that if the cars look more exciting, fans or potential fans will be more likely to watch F1. One might have thought making the racing better would do that, but that's easier said than done so they're taking the superficial route instead.
Raikkonen and Rosberg were the first two guinea pigs but further tests will be carried out throughout the season.
Lewis Hamilton Denies Nico Rosberg Has the Mental Edge
After Nico Rosberg claimed earlier in the week that he has a mental edge over Lewis Hamilton going into the Austrian Grand Prix. He told the Press Association (h/t ESPN):
If your team-mate has three or four wins in a row that's obviously going to strengthen his position.
So it was really important to bring that run to an end because psychology is a big part of sports. If you have those results behind you, like I do now, it gives you that little bit extra, that little bit of an edge, so it does help. It's important.
But Hamilton disagreed. He was quoted by The Guardian as saying on Thursday:
It’s positive he feels that way, even for me. If he is feeling that way and I beat him anyway, that is even better for me. As far as I am concerned this race is a clean slate and we’re starting again. I will attack and go again.
The title fight will, barring any major upsets, be a straight battle between the two Mercedes men. Hamilton's two failures to finish have given Rosberg a 22-point lead after seven races.
A Rosberg victory in Austria will put him more than one win (25 points) clear and greatly strengthen his position.
Sergio Perez/Felipe Massa Row Rumbles on
In an unusual move, the Austrian Grand Prix stewards will re-investigate the last lap crash between Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa at the last race in Canada.
The Canadian stewards ruled Perez was at fault and handed him a five-place grid penalty for the coming race. Massa escaped without blame.
But Force India requested a new hearing, saying they have new evidence to present.
The FIA International Sporting Code (Article 13.10.1 (pdf)) makes allowances for stewards' decisions to be reviewed if a "new element" is discovered which may impact on the decision. It states:
If, in Competitions forming part of an FIA Championship, cup, trophy, challenge or series, a new element is discovered, whether or not the stewards have already given a ruling, these stewards or, failing this, those designated by the FIA, must meet on a date agreed amongst themselves, summoning the party or parties concerned to hear any relevant explanations and to judge in the light of the facts and elements brought before them.
Perez was not spoken to by the Canadian stewards because he was still undergoing checks in hospital after the crash. Force India believed his evidence constitutes a "new element" under this article.
The stewards agreed at a meeting during first practice, so a second hearing will take place at 4 p.m. local time (3 p.m. BST) on Friday. They have the power to overrule the original verdict and come to one of their own, or alter the penalties imposed.
But Massa is adamant the clash was all down to Perez. He was quoted by Autosport on Thursday as saying:
If I made a mistake I would be the first one to say 'it was my mistake and I'm sorry', like I always did when I made a mistake.
People don't think in the same way, so I'm sorry for him and I hope he learns. Otherwise, he'll pay more penalties in the future.
I was very disappointed with him in the hospital. I said that it was dangerous and that he needs to learn, but he just turned and left.
The outcome of the review should be known late on Friday.