Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Ferrari Verbal War, Mercedes Fear, More
The public face of Formula One goes on a bit of a holiday over Christmas, but work on next season's cars continues behind the scenes.
The official entry list for 2015 shows three teams' entries are still subject to confirmation. While one of them will almost certainly shake off that tag in weeks to come, the future looks less bright for the other two.
Also included on the entry list is the news Lewis Hamilton has got his wish and will retain his personal number, 44, despite being eligible to use No. 1 on his car.
Elsewhere, a distinct lack of festive cheer has enveloped Ferrari and Toto Wolff has revealed he wasn't truly convinced Mercedes would stay ahead until they were a single victory away from taking the constructors' title.
Read on for a full roundup of the week's top stories.
3 Teams Listed as 'Subject to Confirmation' on 2015 Entry List
The latest official F1 entry list has been published for the 2015 season with three teams listed in the provisional column.
It was expected Manor (formerly Marussia) and Caterham would be given the designation—both went into administration before the end of 2014 and their futures remain in doubt.
One of Caterham's administrators told Sky Sports:
Our dialogue with prospective interested parties continues.
We are grateful to creditors for their endorsement of our strategy and work. We remain hopeful that the Caterham Formula One team can be saved and be on the grid in Melbourne for the first race of 2015.
Fewer positive noises have been emanating from those in charge at Manor, but hope always remains.
The third team listed as "subject to confirmation" is Lotus, which is slightly more surprising. They were not given this designation in the previous edition of the entry list and with both drivers confirmed, one expects this is more of a procedural issue than a sign they're about to fold.
Luca di Montezemolo and Sergio Marchionne Continue Their Feud
Luca di Montezemolo has hit back after Sergio Marchionne's thinly veiled insult at his leadership of Ferrari.
Montezemolo resigned (with a bit of pushing) from his position as chairman and president of Ferrari in September. Top Gear reports a "clash" with eventual successor Marchionne was the primary reason, and relations between the two have never looked especially friendly.
BBC Sport reported Marchionne publicly criticised Montezemolo just before his departure, and December has seen their relationship sink lower still.
Speaking at a Christmas event for the team, the new Ferrari chairman called 2015 a "year of reconstruction" and, per James Allen, indicated this was "due to strategic decisions made by others, who are no longer here."
Additionally, Autoweek reports Marchionne is less than happy about Montezemolo's appointment to the F1 board—and mentions rumours Ferrari blocked their former boss from becoming F1 chairman, forcing him into a lesser role.
Now Montezemolo has poked his head back over the parapet to defend his record. Speaking to the Italian ANSA news agency (h/t James Allen), he said:
I promised myself that I would not be drawn into polemics, due to the deep love I have for Ferrari and to the respect merited by all who work there and who have worked and won on road and track. In these last weeks I have witnessed repeated gratuitous utterances, which do not correspond with the facts. I don’t intend to rise to such provocations.
The sporting successes, which exceed anything since achieved by any other team as well as the strength and prestige achieved with the brand around the world, not to mention the financial results which have been fundamental for the Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group and which this year are the best in the history of the company—these things speak for themselves. I hope that Christmas will brighten the spirits and clear a few minds.
Marchionne does have a point—Montezemolo's style and decisions were clearly no longer working at the Scuderia.
But perhaps, given the new chief's lofty and respected status in the business world, the apportioning of blame should be left for private conversations.
No '1' on the 2015 Grid as Lewis Hamilton Sticks with 44
The FIA has confirmed there will be no No. 1 on the 2015 grid.
Lewis Hamilton was entitled to select the number as the reigning world champion, but he told Sky Sports in November he would try to convince Mercedes to let him keep his own No. 44.
He told the broadcaster at the time:
No. 44 has always been my number since the day I started. I won my first championship [in karting] on number 44 and I’m going to work very hard to ask the team if I can keep 44 on my car next year.
Number one is a great thing and I’ll always know that I’m number one, but 44 is my favourite number so I want to keep it on the car.
It appears he was successful in his wish, despite the obvious short-term publicity benefits for his team of having "1" on the car. The official entry list published by the FIA this week lists him as No. 44.
Former champion Sebastian Vettel will race as No. 5, his own personal number. Newcomers Felipe Nasr (12), Max Verstappen (33) and Carlos Sainz Junior (55) provide the other new numbers to learn.
Sebastien Buemi Retained as Red Bull Reserve for 2015
Sebastien Buemi will continue as Red Bull's reserve driver in 2015. He posted the news on Twitter with a link to a photo of himself in the car:
Today's announcement: I am really happy to confirm that I will remain the 3rd and reserve driver of… http://t.co/OR60Zac2Cq— Sébastien Buemi (@Sebastien_buemi) December 23, 2014
The announcement caps a sparkling season for the former Toro Rosso driver, whose top-level career looked under threat when he was axed from the team at the end of 2011.
He spent 2012 as a test and reserve driver for the main Red Bull team, taking a few weekends off for a run at Le Mans for Toyota. The following year he remained in the reserve role but also drove a full season in the World Endurance Championship, again with Toyota.
Along with team-mates Anthony Davidson and Stephane Sarrazin—both former F1 starters—Buemi finished third in the standings with one win and three further podiums.
The Swiss retained both roles into 2014, this time with great success. Along with Davidson (and for four races, Nicolas Lapierre), Buemi dominated the WEC and was crowned champion with four race wins and three further podiums from eight races.
He ended his racing year with victory in the Punta del Este Formula E race. Buemi is still just 26 and surely has a great career ahead of him.
His story—and that of Davidson, who turned to the world's top sports-car series after a decade spent knocking on the F1 door returned just 24 starts—stands as proof that there is more to life than the pay-driver filled, precarious world of F1.
Toto Wolff Wasn't Sure of Constructors' Title Until 4 Races from the End
Toto Wolff has revealed he didn't accept that Mercedes would remain ahead of the pack until after the Japanese Grand Prix.
Mercedes left that race with a 180-point lead in the constructors' championship, needing only 10 more than their nearest rivals in Russia to secure the title. It was only at this stage that Wolff decided the job was done. He told Autosport:
I am such a pessimistic person by nature. It was not until the flight back from Suzuka to Europe, obviously with the black cloud of Jules' [Bianchi] accident there, that I realised for the first time we have a dominant package—and we might be able to win.
I didn't have those thoughts at all through the season. I never believed that it was an easy pass—in fact it was the contrary.
Everything we saw since the beginning of the season was not indication enough that our package would be good enough. When we came into Melbourne, Ricciardo finished second before it was taken away—from barely any testing.
He added, referring to occasions on which the running order has been shaken up mid-season:
If you look at the season, it was the first time that the team ever increased the gap throughout the year instead of falling back.
Even in 2009 [Brawn], it went down. Last year we were really doing well until the summer break and then after the summer break we just lost out to the nine victories of Sebastian Vettel. And this year the opposite happened.
Wolff went on to say he has "never felt comfortable with anything until it was done," which explains his slightly staggering pessimism.
As soon as it became clear the Renault engine was never going to perform at the same level as the Mercedes, the title race was effectively over.
There was nothing Red Bull could have done to close the gap and it's inconceivable that Williams, lacking a front-running budget, could have made up the necessary time.
Perhaps it will give Mercedes' rivals some hope. It's unlikely, but the time spent improving the already dominant W05 may have adversely affected the progress of the 2015 W06...