Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: McLaren Changes, Audi Say No, More

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2015

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: McLaren Changes, Audi Say No, More

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    McLaren racing director Eric Boullier insists that although his team have endured their worst start to a season since their formation in 1966, changes made throughout the organisation are bearing fruit.

    The Frenchman highlights an improved success rate for upgrades and also reveals a big change of aerodynamic direction was needed if the team were to return to the front of the grid.

    The jury remains out on whether it has done the job.

    Lotus are another team to have lost their way in recent seasons. After finishing fourth in the constructors' championship in 2012 and 2013, the British team fell to eighth last season. This not only impacted on their financial well-being, it also cost them their seat on the Formula One Strategy Group.

    Now among the disenfranchised teams, Lotus are resigned to having to accept whichever direction those in positions of power decide to take the sport.

    Elsewhere, Timo Glock has marked the upcoming start to the DTM season by calling F1 "boring," the 2016 season will start in April and Audi insist they have no current plans to enter F1.

    Read on for a full roundup of the top stories from the last few days.

McLaren Making Progress Despite Poor Start, Says Eric Boullier

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says changes made to the way the team is run are bearing fruitdespite the once-mighty constructor making their worst-ever start to a season.

    Speaking to the official F1 website, Boullier revealed the extent of the changes. He said:

    There's been a huge change in overall culture and philosophy. At every level of the company, there is clear leadership.

    We agree the direction we want to pursue, and we bring people with us. The attitude has changed from 'telling' people, to 'asking' people; we've integrated people, and we share opinions and ideas.

    He added that as a result, McLaren have seen their "failure rate" of upgradesthose which did not perform on the track as expectedfall from 50 percent in 2014 to 10 percent or less this year.

    The team have also taken a different approach to aerodynamic development under the leadership of ex-Red Bull designer Peter Prodromou. Boullier revealed:

    Over the last couple of seasons, the team slightly lost its way aerodynamically. It became obvious that if we'd carried on with the previous concept, there'd only be so much we could achieve.

    So we've begun to establish a new aerodynamic concept, and a different way of working, too. That new concept has majorly shaped where the team's heading in the future.

    Next year's car will be an evolution of this year's, so we need to keep developing it right until the final race.

    From the outside, it's difficult to judge how McLaren are doing on the chassis side because their Honda engine is so far behind the others. Even watching them in the corners isn't much use because it's likely they run with less than optimal downforce levels to make up for a lack of straight-line speed.

    Per Christian Horner's comments reported by Reuters, this is what Red Bull have been doing in 2015. It would make sense for McLaren, with even less power at their disposal, to do the same.

    We'll only really see what the MP4-30 can do when Honda get their act togetheror maybe in Monaco, where high-downforce setups rule the roost.

Lotus Resigned to Accepting Whatever the Big Teams Decide

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi admits the smaller teams are powerless in deciding the future direction of F1.

    The sport's main "steering committee" is the Strategy Group, which consists of just six teams, the FIA and commercial rights chief Bernie Ecclestone. Five of the team slots are taken up on a permanent basis by Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and McLarenthe "big teams"while the sixth is awarded on a year-by-year basis to the top team from the rest.

    That was Lotus last season due to their strong 2013, but this year Force India have replaced them. Now Lotusalong with Manor, Sauber and Toro Rossoare represented only on the F1 Commission, a larger body which in practice has little true power.

    Gastaldi told motorsport.com's Adam Cooper:

    Medium and small teams have to follow what they decided. It's not trying to give you a diplomatic answer, it's the truth.

    We've been trying to say different things in the course of the last year when we had the chance to be in the Strategy Group, but nothing happened.

    We need to understand what they want to do, then we'll have to speak about it and adapt.

    Being steered by the vested interests of only a selection of stakeholders is no way for a sport to be run. Power to make the rules should lie with the governing body, with limited input from the teams and commercial rights holderbut those days are unlikely to return.

    In late 2014, Bernie Ecclestone revealed to Forbes' Christian Sylt that the FIA effectively sold decision-making rights to the Strategy Group in exchange for a "contribution" of $40 million per year.

    As long as Ecclestone and the large teams want it to remain this way, it willand the smaller teams, like Gastaldi's Lotus, will have no choice but to follow where they lead.

2016 Season Set for Late Start

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    Rob Griffith/Associated Press

    Fans will have to wait until April for the start of the 2016 F1 season after the Australian Grand Prix was moved back two weeks.

    Having been held on March 15 in 2015, the new date is April 3. The season will still finish in November, meaning we're likely to see a small increase in the number of back-to-back races.

    A statement from race boss Andrew Westacott on the Australian Grand Prix website read:

    It's fantastic that Melbourne will again play host to the opening round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Over the past 20 years Melbourne has become synonymous with the start of a new Formula One season, and we look forward to again welcoming all the teams and drivers to our great city in 2016.

    The new date will see an earlier start time, and fans can expect the same great on-track action and off-track entertainment across the four days.

    The reason for the shift, which will push the race further toward the Australian winter and necessitate an earlier start time, is currently unknown. There are are no major sporting events scheduled for March 2016 which may have prompted the shift (the race has form in this area, moving back a few weeks in 2006 due to Melbourne hosting the Commonwealth Games).

    However, a Sky Sports analysis suggests increasing the number of back-to-back races could help cut down travel costs for the teams.

    Furthermore, it should give us fans a more action-packed year. In exchange for the longer wait for the season to kick off, we should have fewer of the pointless, withdrawal-inducing three-week gaps between raceslike the one between Bahrain and Spain.

    Outside the summer break, two weeks between races should be the maximum. Hopefully a later Australia will allow this to happen.

Timo Glock Calls Formula 1 Boring

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    Timo Glock celebrating on the podium at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix.
    Timo Glock celebrating on the podium at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Timo Glock has added his name to the long, long list of F1 critics, branding the sport "boring."

    The former Toyota, Virgin and Marussia driver moved to DTM in 2013 after an F1 career which netted him three podium finishes. Having now spent two seasons in the German touring car series, he is adamant which of the two he prefers.

    Speaking to Bild (h/t grandprix.com for the English translation), Glock said:

    DTM puts out a positive message and keeps the costs down. [In F1] the teams with the most money are in front, the others just have to see where they are.

    The races in Formula One have become quite boring, which is not like with us [in DTM]. With the exception of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari, nobody is able to keep up with those at the front.

    Glock's criticism is familiar; the on-track action and financial situation have been the beating sticks of choice for every F1 critic over the last two decades or so.

    On the money side, he certainly has a point. It's difficult to argue that F1 doesn't have a serious problem regarding income disparity between the teams, and the current prize money structure could very easily be seen as a carefully constructed web to trap the smaller teams at the back of the grid.

    But "boring" is just a lazy, cheap dig trotted out by far too many ex-drivers, usually in a bid to plug their current racing series as more exciting and dramatic.

    Perhaps if Glock drove for Mercedes in DTMrather than BMWhe'd have a different point of view.

Audi Not Currently Planning a Formula 1 Return

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    Tazio Nuvolari in an Auto Union at the 1938 Donington Grand Prix. Logo visible above the grille.
    Tazio Nuvolari in an Auto Union at the 1938 Donington Grand Prix. Logo visible above the grille.Associated Press

    Audi say it is not currently planning an F1 entry despite the resignation of Ferdinand Piech from his position as chairman of the Volkswagen Group.

    Piech had long been seen as the primary hurdle standing in the way of a one of his group's companiesincluding Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Lamborghini and Volkswagen itselfentering F1. His departure led to fresh speculation one of them would be making the leap in the near future.

    But speaking to BBC Sport, a spokesman insisted, "The current situation is that Audi definitely has no intention to enter F1." He went on to add that, with their focus on sports cars and DTM, their motorsport arm was at full capacity.

    An Audi entry would see the company's famous interlocking rings logo appear on a grand prix car for the first time since the 1930s. Auto Union raced with the logo as they and Mercedes enjoyed a fierce rivalry in the pre-war, pre-world championship years.

    The company was closed down in the aftermath of the Second World War but revived in 1949. This new Auto Union evolved through a series of mergers into Audiwhich retains the logo to this day.

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