Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull, Ferrari, More

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2014

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull, Ferrari, More

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    Lewis Hamilton is keen to sign a new contract with Mercedes, and the team want to retain him.

    But nothing will be rushed.

    With all manner of options, clauses and assurances to considerand the small matter of salarythere's plenty of time before the start of the new season to iron out the details.

    Such things will no longer matter to Marco Mattiacci, though. Having just announced Sebastian Vettel as Fernando Alonso's replacement, the Ferrari team principal has been sacked. His replacement, Maurizio Arrivabene, arrives from team sponsor Philip Morris (Marlboro).

    Elsewhere, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner insists his isn't the only team bending the rules on flexible bodywork, the final test of the 2014 season starts on Tuesday and Niki Lauda expects another tense Mercedes battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in 2015.

    Read on for a full roundup of the top stories coming out of the race weekend.

Marco Mattiacci Replaced at Ferrari by Maurizio Arrivabene

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    Marco Mattiacci has been replaced as Ferrari team principal after less than seven months in the job.

    The announcement was made on the Ferrari website on Monday, with Maurizio Arrivabene arriving from major team sponsor Philip Morris (the company which produces Marlboro cigarettes).

    A statement from Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne on the team website said:

    We decided to appoint Maurizio Arrivabene because, at this historic moment in time for the Scuderia and for Formula One, we need a person with a thorough understanding not just of Ferrari but also of the governance mechanisms and requirements of the sport.

    Maurizio has a unique wealth of knowledge: he has been extremely close to the Scuderia for years and, as a member of the F1 Commission, is also keenly aware of the challenges we are facing. He has been a constant source of innovative ideas focused on revitalisation of Formula One.

    His managerial experience on a highly complex and closely regulated market is also of great importance, and will help him manage and motivate the team. I am delighted to have been able to secure his leadership for our racing activities.

    We would also like to thank Marco Mattiacci for his service to Ferrari in the last 15 years and we wish him well in his future endeavours.

    Arrivabene has been the representative of all the sport's sponsors on the F1 Commission since 2010, so as Marchionne says, is fully aware of the way things work within the sport.

    And through his work for the team's largest sponsor, he has plenty of experience dealing with Ferrari.

    But he has to be seen as a bit of risk, as he isn't experienced at actually running a team.

    However things turn out, he'll certainly hope to last longer than Mattiacci. Having replaced Stefano Domenicali in April after a long and highly successful career within Ferrari, he has now been booted out of the company.

Lewis Hamilton Set for Contract Talks with Mercedes

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    Lewis Hamilton is set to sign a new contract with Mercedes after becoming the team's first world champion since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955.

    Speaking to Sky Sports News on Monday, Hamilton said:

    During the season is not the time to really talk about things, and you start assessing and discussing the future generally in the last year of your contract.

    But we're happy with where we are and what we've achieved together. Toto (Wolff) was just saying in the coming weeks we'll sit down and hopefully it will be a simple process to go througha formality.

    This being F1, though, things are never that simple. Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (h/t Sky Sports):

    We would love Lewis to stay in the team. He has been an incredible part in the development and rise of the team and we want to continue with both of them [Hamilton and Rosberg]. I think he wants that too but it is not a matter of a couple of hours of sitting down and just ticking the boxes. It needs proper reflection and discussion.

    That is never easy because it a decision with consequences, for the driverfor Lewisand for us as a team. Stability is a very crucial ingredient for us as a team and sitting down and discussing the future.

    It is clear that for Lewis he feels at home in the team, that car is the most competitive car now and so we've ticked two boxes, but having said that it is never quick in finding all the terms and just making it happen.

    There is indeed a lot to discuss on the sort of contract Hamilton will be given, which will be somewhat less simple than the ones we sign with our workplaces.

    The baseline salary is the headline-grabber, but isn't likely to be the primary focus.

    For a driver of his standing there will also be the length, options on his and the team's part to remain for longer, performance-related release clauses, bonuses, various assurances and a 100 other things a non-legal mind couldn't even imagine.

    That may take a while.

Red Bull Insist Other Teams Are Breaking the Rules as Well

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    Red Bull say they are not the only team bending the rules on flexible front wings.

    FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer referred the team to the stewards after qualifying on Saturday, stating in a report that the front wing flaps on the RB10 were "designed to flex under aerodynamic load," in breach of Article 3.15 of the F1 technical regulations.

    BBC Sport reported the stewards decided the designa concealed spring devicewas a deliberate attempt to break the rules, and both of the team's cars were kicked out of qualifying.

    No issues were found with the wings of the other cars inspected.

    However, Red Bull insist they are not the only team doing it. Team principal Christian Horner told Autosport:

    It is about the type of test. You can see very clearly all of the teams' wings are moving, some more than others.

    We have taken things to the extreme in a particular area. They [the FIA] are focusing on one element of the front wing, which is the upper element, whereas others are taking advantage of other areas.

    But that was a decision of the stewards and the scrutineers, so we have to take it on the chin. F1 is all about pushing to the boundaries and we went a step too far.

    It's true that other teams have wing elements that move or deform under load, which will always happen because having an entirely rigid part is impossible. F1 technical expert Matt Somerfield explains this is done "through aeroelasticity, i.e. the force on the wing is sufficient for it to flex downward as the load increases."

    He adds this is the case with the Williams wing, seen flexing in this gif image tweeted by Craig Scarborough.

    The difference between that and the Red Bull design is that while other teams just let the aerodynamic load do its thing, Red Bull deliberately engineered the part to flex.

    Horner may find himself answering questions about this for a little while yet.

    Which is nice, because it'll mean we get a break from listening to him going on about changing the engines to suit what Red Bull want.

Lineup Confirmed for Final Formula 1 Test of 2014

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    The lineups for this week's post-season test at Abu Dhabi have been confirmed.

    Tuesday and Wednesday will see the 2014 cars on track for the final time in an official capacity. Sky Sports F1 lists the lineups as (with thanks to Autosport for filling in the blank at Lotus):

    MercedesNico Rosberg Pascal Wehrlein
    Red BullCarlos Sainz Jr.Daniel Ricciardo
    William Valtteri Bottas Felipe Nasr
    Ferrari Kimi Raikkonen Raffaele Marciello
    McLaren Stoffel Vandoorne Stoffel Vandoorne
    Force India Jolyon PalmerSpike Goddard
    Toro RossoMax Verstappen Max Verstappen
    LotusEsteban Ocon Alex Lynn
    SauberMarcus Ericsson Marcus Ericsson
    CaterhamWill StevensWill Stevens

    The standout name is Stoffel Vandoorne, who will do all the driving for McLaren as they give their new Honda engine its first real test.

    He looks an incredible talent, and he is an outside bet to partner Fernando Alonso at the team next season.

    Max Verstappen, Raffaele Marciello and Esteban Ocon are others to watch. They represent the cream of the Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus young-driver programs.

    Verstappen will be driving a Toro Rosso in 2015 after finishing third in his first European F3 championship year, while Marciello looks set for a second season in GP2.

    Ocon beat Verstappen to the F3 crown, and he has impressed in tests for Lotus and Ferrari already this year.

    Mercedes tester Wehrlein is a bit of an unknown quantity so far as F1 is concerned. He has just completed a successful second season in the DTM touring car championship, but he has never driven in an official testing session before.

    GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer, Red Bull Junior Alex Lynn and 2015 Sauber driver Felipe Nasr (for Williams) are also worth looking out for.

Niki Lauda Expects More of the Same in 2015

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    Niki Lauda is expecting little to change between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in 2015and he hopes a rival team doesn't try to get in the way.

    Speaking after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Mercedes non-executive chairman was quoted by Reuters saying:

    Nico will fight back and Nico has the potential upwards. There is still something to come out of his speed and performance and technical inputs he gives. So next year's going to be fun again between the two. And I hope nobody else will interfere.

    Lauda also spoke of how he feels the famously strained relationship between the drivers may develop, drawing on his own experiences. He said:

    Lewis and Nico from lap to lap from the beginning of the season pushed each other. The most important is that both drivers developed the car with their driving style...everything we did was absolutely the same for both of them and therefore we have gone so quick.

    I never liked [Alain] Prost, I never liked [Clay] Regazzoni, I never liked [John] Watson when it came down to racing, so this is normal. But there is a certain respect of each other.

    It's going to be easier next year because they respect each other on their level of performance.

    After the race on Sunday, Rosberg made a point of congratulating his team-mate before the podium ceremony, a fine act of sportsmanship.

    But if the two men are as close in 2015 as they were this year and again fight for the title, Lauda's hope that it will be "easier" may well be shatteredespecially if Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren are not competitive.

    A third or even fourth face in the championship battle would take a bit of the negative energy out of the Mercedes camp, diverting it elsewhere.