Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Volkswagen/Audi, Fernando Alonso and More
A power shift at the very top of the Volkswagen group has sparked fresh speculation the famous German car maker could be close to entering Formula One.
Chairman Ferdinand Piech, no great fan of F1 commercial rights chief Bernie Ecclestone, stepped down from his role following a clash with his chief executive. Under Piech, an entry was highly unlikely—now, it could be back on the agenda.
Also making the headlines in Germany is Mick Schumacher, the 16-year-old son of F1 legend Michael. He made his debut in the ADAC Formula Four series at the weekend and won on his third attempt.
Elsewhere, Jacques Villeneuve has criticised Manor's continued presence at the rear of the field, Fernando Alonso yearns for the days of old and Force India want each team to be allowed to pick their own tyre compounds—rather than let Pirelli decide for everyone.
Read on for a full roundup of the top stories from the last few days.
Volkswagen Management Changes Edge Company Closer to Formula 1
Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech has stepped down from his role—and it may lead to the German giant entering F1 with one of its stable of illustrious brands.
The members of the Executive Committee have unanimously determined that in view of the background of the last weeks the mutual trust necessary for successful cooperation no longer exists.
For this reason Professor Dr. Ferdinand K. Piech has resigned with immediate effect from his position as Chairman of the Supervisory Board and from all his mandates as a Supervisory Board member within the Volkswagen Group.
Piech has long been seen as the primary obstacle to a VW brand entering F1. He and Bernie Ecclestone share a difficult relationship and changes to the management structure of either F1 or VW were needed before any entry could happen.
With Piech gone, this stumbling block has been cleared.
VW owns brands including Bugatti, Porsche, Lamborghini and SEAT, but an entry from Audi appears most likely at this time. Indeed, BBC Sport's Andrew Benson reported over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend that the only thing stopping them was Piech's dislike of Ecclestone.
But should an entry be made, it's unlikely to be any time soon. A new team starting from scratch with its own engine—and ambitions to be immediately competitive—could not realistically hope to start any earlier than 2018.
Force India Suggest Letting Teams Pick Their Own Tyre Compounds
Force India have suggested a new approach to how Pirelli's four tyre compounds should be used—let teams pick their own.
Speaking to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport (h/t Planet F1), the team's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said:
Pirelli has four different compounds on offer. Why can't each team select its two options individually?
If the team inform Pirelli four weeks in advance about the combinations they want for each grand prix, the tyres can be produced in time. It doesn't cost more.
The choice is then a secret until the Thursday before each race. So then early on Thursday we have a topic that everyone is talking about.
On the surface, there's not a lot wrong with the idea, and it would certainly add some extra excitement to race weekends.
But there's a strong argument that tyres already have too great an impact on F1; allowing teams to pick their own could send this influence into overdrive.
Given the huge performance differences between the various compounds, a team's weekend could be destroyed by a poor tyre choice made a month earlier. Tyres, not the chassis, engine or driver, would become the primary factor in the car's race and qualifying performance.
The Strategy Group, mostly populated by the teams with the largest budgets and the best drivers, is never going to agree to that.
Fernando Alonso Misses Quicker Cars
Fernando Alonso says F1 is not the same as it used to be—but he can still find enjoyment from the competition.
The Spaniard's McLaren team have struggled so far in 2015 as the team and engine partner Honda work to iron out problems with their new power unit. Asked if he still "loves" the sport, he is quoted by Crash.net, saying:
I think the cars are different—slower, heavier. In China, the pace in the race was one minute 43 [seconds] and in 2004 the pace was one minute 33 [seconds], so it is 10 seconds difference. When you drive 10 seconds slower you don't have the same feelings.
On the other hand, the DNA of the sport remains the same, which is competing against the others, beating the others and being cleverer than the others.
When I go go-karting with friends, I have so much fun and I am doing 50 kilometres per hour, so it doesn't matter how much quicker or slower you are, you just enjoy the competition.
As Alonso says, F1 was indeed very different in 2004; with refuelling and a tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin, lap times in the grands prix themselves were far lower, and the forces exerted upon the drivers were significantly higher.
But aside from the sound, certain drivers and the field being a little closer than it is today, there isn't a lot to miss about that era from a fan's point of view. The races just weren't as much fun as they are today, with on-track overtaking extremely difficult and most passes taking place at pit stops.
As much as DRS and fast-wearing Pirelli tyres have damaged the "purity" of the sport, they have made it more interesting to watch.
Still, it'd be nice if the modern cars were a little bit more difficult to drive...
Mick Schumacher Records 1st Single-Seater Race Win
Michael Schumacher's son has claimed his first victory in ADAC Formula Four in only his third race in the category as he continues his journey up the motorsport ladder.
In the final race of the season-opening weekend at Oschersleben, Germany, Mick Schumacher started from second on the grid and held off Van Amersfoort team-mate Joey Mawson to take the chequered flag. Schumacher revealed his delight on the series website, saying:
I'm ecstatic, of course! My first race weekend could not have gone better! We had a good start, because my tyres were still fresh, and it went well from then on, apart from at the end where things were close again. I was not too unhappy about the safety car.
All in all, I'm really pleased with this start to the season and look forward to the next set of races.
Also present in the large field was Adrian Newey's son Harrison, who had a best finish of seventh in the first race. Another famous name was that of Jonathan Cecotto, son of former F1 driver Johnny Cecotto and younger brother of long-time GP2 racer Johnny Cecotto Jr.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013. Though he could not attend the race, Sky Sports reports his father Rolf Schumacher—who played a major role in Michael's rise through the junior ranks—was at the track to see his grandson's success.
Jacques Villeneuve Criticises Manor Presence on the Grid
Jacques Villeneuve believes Manor should be competing in a lower category of racing instead of F1.
Speaking to Spanish newspaper AS, the 1997 world champion was asked if the team deserved to be a part of the grid. He replied (h/t grandprix.com):
No, of course not, when their car is five seconds off the pace.
This team is not worthy of F1. It is better for them to be in GP2 or the World Series [Formula Renault 3.5] and maybe they could even do well.
This is an expensive sport and you have to be competitive.
Villeneuve added he'd like to see some areas of the sport move back toward what it was like in his day, saying:
Formula One is an aspirational sport that everyone would like to be in. The teams should go testing again, let them spend as they did before—the engines should be really powerful and fast.
That's the appeal. It's like if Rolex watches were suddenly cheaper, they wouldn't have the same value either.
Indeed they wouldn't, but as the cost of F1 has skyrocketed over the last decade and a half, it's hard to see his point.
Manor looked down and out at the turn of the year and didn't have time to build a 2015 car; they are currently running a modified version of their 2014 challenger with a similarly outdated Ferrari engine.
Per ESPN, they are aiming to have their proper 2015 car—which will be fitted with the vastly improved 2015 Ferrari engine—ready for August's Belgian Grand Prix.
The team deserve to be judged based on the performance of this car, not the one they are currently using.