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Formula 1's Latest Rumours, Talk: Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari's 2016 Car and More

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2016

Formula 1's Latest Rumours, Talk: Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari's 2016 Car and More

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    Peter Fox/Getty Images

    Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen, the Toro Rosso rookies, were among the stars of the 2015 Formula One season.

    Despite their lack of experience, the youngsters seamlessly adjusted to the demands of the pinnacle of motorsport to emerge as the most exciting talents to graduate from Red Bull's junior-driver scheme since Sebastian Vettel, now a four-time world champion.

    But Sainz fears the team didn't fully utilise their drivers' potential last season and has urged the Toro Rosso pit wall to let them race without team orders in 2016. As Sainz and Verstappen continued their development, the development of Ferrari's new car appeared to stall in 2015.

    Although the Prancing Horse have aspirations of challenging two-time world champions Mercedes this year, Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has revealed the team delayed work on their 2016 car to extract the most from last year's chassis. 

    Marchionne, though, is confident the delay will have no noticeable effect on their competitiveness.

    If Kimi Raikkonen again struggles to match Ferrari team-mate Vettel in the upcoming season, Marchionne may be forced to search for a new driver for 2017.

    And after one Force India star recently explained his desire to leave the team to fight for major honours, the Silverstone-based outfit have indicated Nico Hulkenberg, still without a podium finish in five full seasons in F1, would be allowed to depart if a front-running team made an approach.

    With this year's driver market set to be particularly eventful, IndyCar's Ryan Hunter-Reay believes drivers competing in American open-wheel racing should not be ignored in the fight for an F1 seat.

    Closing our latest roundup is Red Bull's Adrian Newey, who has become the latest paddock figure to question the proposed 2017 regulation changes.

Carlos Sainz Jr. Urges Toro Rosso to Let Drivers Race

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Carlos Sainz Jr. believes Scuderia Toro Rosso should trust their drivers to race fairly in 2016 after issuing team orders throughout last season.

    Sainz and team-mate Max Verstappen established themselves as potential world champions in 2015, producing several impressive performances and a number of notable results both in qualifying and racing conditions, but their battles were often influenced by messages from the pit wall.

    In the aftermath of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Sainz told Spanish publication Marca (h/t GrandPrix.com) of his "anger" when Verstappen, who went on to claim a career-best fourth place, was given the preferential pit strategy despite running behind his team-mate.

    In Singapore, meanwhile, Verstappen refused to move aside for Sainz when the rookies were pursuing seventh-placed Sergio Perez, although team boss Franz Tost later told Sky Sports' Mike Wise how the teenager was right to ignore the request.

    While Sainz told the same source that he would have switched positions with Verstappen, claiming he is a "fair man," the 21-year-old insisted there were no issues between the pair.

    And the Spaniard believes the mature, respectful way the drivers dealt with the Singapore silliness proves they can be relied upon to fight on a more regular basis, telling Auto Motor und Sport (h/t F1i.com): 

    At Toro Rosso it is common to receive the radio message [let him past] when the other car is getting close. I think it would be fun if we could fight more against each other. We have a mutual respect for each other and we would certainly offer a good show as our pace was very similar ... That would have been exciting.

    We provide a close fight. We are always very close together. The whole year was like this. One might think that our relationship deteriorated after Singapore, but that is not so. We then talked about it and cleared everything up. After that the relationship was again as it was early in the season. I hope it stays that way next year too.

    As Sainz and Verstappen prepare for their second year in F1, Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde has reported that Toro Rosso's new car, the STR11—which will feature a longer wheelbase following the team's switch from Renault to Ferrari engines—should be ready in time for the first of two pre-season tests in Barcelona, Spain.

Ferrari Delayed Development of 2016 Car to Focus on 2015

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Sergio Marchionne has revealed the team delayed the development of their 2016 car to extract the most from last season's SF15-T.

    After enduring their first winless season in more than two decades in 2014, Ferrari emerged as the biggest threat to the all-conquering Mercedes outfit in 2015 to claim the runner-up spot in the constructors' championship.

    Sebastian Vettel claimed a total of 13 podium finishes, including three victories in Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore—where he dominated from Ferrari's first dry-weather pole position in five years—while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen made three appearances on the podium.

    The extent of Ferrari's resurgence has made the Prancing Horse confident of a title challenge in 2016, with team principal Maurizio Arrivabene telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble how the team "must be in front" of Mercedes this year.

    Marchionne, however, has admitted the team did not start working on their new car when they originally planned, but—with only minor regulation changes planned for the new season—he is confident the delay will not have an effect on Ferrari's competitiveness, telling Autosport's Lawrence Barretto:

    Maurizio will tell you we delayed some things to allow for the 2015 car to be finished.

    Hopefully he will not bitch about this. We pushed the start of some of the work on the '16 cars on the chassis, delayed it a bit.

    But we have had adequate time and adequate financial resources to do the right thing given the rules.

    So I'm confident we will give Mercedes a run for their money.

    We approached the '16 car with a very clear idea and very clear interpretation.

    It is incredibly unlikely that the car will not offer Mercedes a proper challenge.

    For me to determine whether it will win or not would be very gutsy.

    I have no excuses to give you this year, in the sense that we started developing the car at the proper time.

    Per the same source, Marchionne acknowledged Mercedes, who have won 32 of the last 38 grands prix, remain the "competitors to be afraid of" but insisted Ferrari "are not afraid of the battle on the race track."

Nico Hulkenberg Would Be Allowed to Leave Force India

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Bob Fernley, Force India's deputy team principal, has admitted Nico Hulkenberg would be allowed to leave the team if he received an offer from a front-running outfit.

    After signing a two-year contract to remain with the team last September, Hulkenberg will begin his third consecutive season with Force India in 2016.

    Along with team-mate Sergio Perez, who reached the podium in the Russian Grand Prix, the German played an integral role in helping Force India secure fifth place in the constructors' standings, claiming three sixth-place finishes, in Austria, Japan and Brazil.

    This year's driver market is expected to be the most hectic in some time, with potential vacancies at all 11 teams, from two-time world champions Mercedes to newcomers Haas.

    And after Perez told Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper he would be prepared to leave Force India to pursue race victories and world championships, Fernley has admitted Hulkenberg—who was given permission to race for Porsche in the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance event in 2015—would also be allowed to further his career.

    He told Autosport's Ian Parkes:

    Nico signing for another two years was all about continuity from our side, to be able to keep a team together that is obviously now a successful partnership.

    That's where we want to stay with it, but does that mean if an offer came through from a championship-winning team it wouldn't be considered?

    I'm sure Vijay [Mallya, team principal] would use the same foresight and vision as he did for the Le Mans decision.

    [...]

    It would be nice for Nico to be able to progress to what I think his talent deserves and I think a lot of people in the paddock believe that, too.

    But as we know in Formula 1 the opportunities are very limited, so let's just hope one of those opportunities comes for him.

    After Hulkenberg's points finish at the Brazilian GP sealed the team's best-ever championship finish, Fernley told Motorsport.com's Cooper how the team could realistically target beating Williams to a top-four spot.

    But as the start of the 2016 campaign edges nearer, chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer has admitted Force India may find it "difficult" to beat the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso team and a potentially resurgent McLaren-Honda, per Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble.

    Szafnauer added that the major regulation changes proposed for 2017 may result in the smaller teams choosing to sacrifice the development of their 2016 cars.

Ryan Hunter-Reay Urges F1 Teams to Consider IndyCar Drivers

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    Ryan Hunter-Reay believes Formula One teams should not be afraid of signing drivers currently competing in American open-wheel racing.

    In previous years, IndyCar has acted as a stepping stone to F1, with 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya, the former Williams and McLaren driver, graduating to the pinnacle of motorsport after winning the Indianapolis 500 event in 1995 and 2000, respectively.

    However, no driver has made the jump from American single-seaters to F1 since four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais joined Scuderia Toro Rosso at the beginning of 2008.

    That, of course, was the year Champ Car and IndyCar merged, with the series experiencing a revival after six drivers, including Montoya, entered the final round of 2015 with a mathematical chance of winning the title.

    Last season, Alexander Rossi became the first American driver to race in F1 since 2007 after competing in five grands prix with Manor, and he is hopeful of remaining with the team for 2016, as reported by Sky Sports' James Galloway.

    And Hunter-Reay, the 2012 champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner, believes the quality of driving talent within IndyCar should encourage F1 teams—whose drivers, like Rossi, often arrive from feeder series such as GP2 and Formula 3.5 V8—to survey the American scene, telling Sky Sports' William Esler

    I think it is really about a fork in the road very early in your career.

    If you want to be in Formula 1 you have to come up through the Formula 1 ladder which is in Europe and if you want to be an IndyCar driver you come up through the American ladder and that is just the way it is.

    Once upon a time there was a road to Formula 1 through IndyCar success and I just think that after a few weak years by IndyCar that kind of went away. Now IndyCar's championship is as strong as ever, I think it is the best and most competitive it has ever been, and I'm not just saying that because I am in it. We demonstrate that week in, week out with the product on track.

    F1's profile in the United States is likely to enhance in 2016 when the new Haas outfit, founded by NASCAR team owner Gene Haas, arrive on the grid. But at a time the future of the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, is in serious doubt, Hunter-Reay is unsure Haas' presence will be enough.

    The Texas native told Esler: "I think Formula 1 racing in general can do it, but it is going to take more of a presence in the United States other than just a team that calls itself 'USF1' even though it is based in the UK, which it has to be I think."

    Per the same source, Hunter-Reay also spoke of his eagerness to see more American-based races on the F1 calendar.

Red Bull's Adrian Newey Unconvinced by Proposed 2017 Regulations

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    As the mastermind behind championship-winning Williams, McLaren and Red Bull machines, Adrian Newey knows a thing or two about Formula One cars.

    And the legendary designer has revealed his concerns that the regulation changes proposed for the 2017 season are not radical enough to bring the sport back to the people.

    In July 2015, the Formula One Strategy Group released its plans to introduce "faster and more aggressive looking cars for 2017," with changes to the front and rear wings—as well as wider tyres—hoped to make the cars faster by around five seconds per lap.

    With just 12 months until the next-generation cars arrive, however, the regulations are yet to be set in stone, and the proposals have attracted criticism from paddock figures.

    Lewis Hamilton, for instance, told Sky Sports' Mike Wise that adding "more aerodynamics" to the cars is "the worst idea," with the three-time world champion claiming those behind the regulations "don't really know what they're trying to solve."

    And Newey also believes the new rules are not fit for purpose, calling for more aggressive changes for 2017. He told United Arab Emirates publication the National

    I have always enjoyed rule changes because it gives fresh opportunities. The regulations have become increasingly restrictive. If you go back to, let’s say the 1970s and the 1980s, you saw this huge variety of shapes of cars because the regulations were relatively free.

    Now, if you painted all the cars white in the pit lane, you have to be quite knowledgeable to know which car is from which team.

    Regulation changes give that opportunity to do something different. However, with the regulation changes that are being talked about for 2017, they are actually not that different to what we have now. Slightly wider tyres. Slightly revised aerodynamics regulations. No really fundamental differences.

    Meanwhile, 2009 world champion Jenson Button has defended the rule makers, telling Autosport's Lawrence Barretto that "they are doing everything right" and praising them for "really listening to the criticism" but warning that increasing mechanical grip must be the priority behind the 2017 rules.

     


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