Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Ron Dennis and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2015

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Ron Dennis and More

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    Lewis Hamilton has strong links to the United States, having secured his third Formula One title at the Circuit of the Americas in October.

    His victory in Austin, Texas, was his fourth career win on American soil, and Hamilton is eager to race in the United States on a more regular basis.

    Hamilton recently attended the final event of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and has reiterated his desire to participate in the series in the coming years.

    If Ron Dennis had his way, however, Hamilton probably wouldn't have even been allowed to visit the Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend.

    The McLaren chairman is renowned for his rigid, unbending approach and has criticised Hamilton, claiming his former driver hasn't matured in the way he hoped or expected and suggesting the Mercedes management have offered him too much freedom.

    Meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone has pinpointed his highlight of the 2015 season, praising Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel for their recovery from an underwhelming 2014 campaign.

    Vettel's team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, will find himself in a head-to-head fight for fourth place in the drivers' standings at this weekend's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    And Valtteri Bottas, the Williams driver, has revealed his desperation to beat his rival to the best-of-the-rest position in the championship.

    Closing our latest roundup is Daniel Ricciardo, who will revert to a tried-and-tested engine after Red Bull and Renault's poor performance in Brazil.

Lewis Hamilton Keen to Race in NASCAR After Miami Visit

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    Lewis Hamilton has reiterated his desire to race in NASCAR after attending the final race of the 2015 season at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

    The three-time Formula One world champion attracted criticism in June when, following Nico Hulkenberg's victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Hamilton told Sky Sports' Pete Gill that he had no interest in endurance racing and had never watched the historic sportscar event.

    He did redeem himself in August, though, by telling the Mirror's Byron Young that he was keen to test a MotoGP bike and race in NASCAR, the American stock-car series.

    Hamilton followed up those comments by attending the championship decider as a guest of four-time world champion Jeff Gordon, who participated in his final Sprint Cup race before retirement.

    The British driver has admitted he was charmed by the simplicity and openness of the category, which has only increased his eagerness to participate in a NASCAR event, telling BBC Sport:

    It's a very different world from F1—the teams are much smaller, to the extent that it almost reminded me of my Formula Three days.

    It's not plush. The fans can get really close in the paddock and even be right next to the pit stops. And, in terms of the technology the teams have, it is kept much simpler compared to F1.

    The atmosphere at the track is fantastic. There was one long grandstand that was absolutely packed with fans. The lap is only 30 seconds long, so you see the cars constantly. The cars sound amazing and they are freakin' rapid.

    The race was 267 laps—really long—but I thoroughly enjoyed it, trying to understand the strategy and the differences between the cars. It was neat.

    It made me want to drive one—I really fancy a race in a NASCAR one day. I'm not sure I'd do an oval, but possibly a street circuit or road course.

    Hamilton, who told Thursday's FIA press conference that NASCAR does some things "a lot better than us," is not the only current F1 driver with aspirations of racing in the series.

    Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo recently told Autosport's Lawrence Barretto of his desire to switch to the States when his F1 career comes to an end, while Kimi Raikkonen competed in two NASCAR races during his exile from F1 in 2011.

McLaren's Ron Dennis Has 'Mixed Emotions' over Lewis Hamilton

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    Ron Dennis, the McLaren chairman, has revealed that he looks back on Lewis Hamilton's time at McLaren with mixed feelings, suggesting the three-time world champion has "gone off the rails" at various points throughout his Formula One career.

    Hamilton joined McLaren as a youngster, and Dennis, then in the role of team principal, played an instrumental role in the British driver's rise to prominence, rewarding Hamilton with a full-time seat in 2007 and overseeing his first title triumph in '08.

    When that success was not built upon, however, the relationship between team and driver became increasingly strained, with Hamilton posting an image of telemetry data on Twitter at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix before joining Mercedes at the beginning of 2013.

    The move proved to be inspired. Hamilton has claimed two consecutive championships over his three seasons with the Silver Arrows, while McLaren are still without a grand prix win since their star driver's departure.

    Despite his astronomical success over that period, Hamilton continues to receive much criticism for his private life, and his latest controversy came ahead of the recent Brazilian GP, when he was embroiled in a road accident in Monaco as a result of "heavy partying," as reported by MailOnline's Jonathan McEvoy.

    And Dennis, while praising Hamilton's achievements, has admitted that he has often been unimpressed by his former driver's behaviour, suggesting he wouldn't offer Hamilton the freedom he currently enjoys from the Mercedes management.

    He told F1i.com's Phillip van Osten:

    I look at him with mixed emotions. It was an interesting experience for everybody and it wasn’t completely smooth and harmonious, and I don’t approve of everything he does or says.

    But nevertheless great athletes are great because of the sacrifices they have to make. And sometimes sacrifices are in a very formative part of their childhood so they don’t always emerge with all the right social process or behaviour or tendencies that you like.

    If he was at McLaren he wouldn’t be behaving the way he is because he wouldn’t be allowed to...He's shaking off some chains he didn’t want to have.

    Dennis' comments come after he told CNN'S The Circuit (h/t Gary Chappell of the Express) in March that Hamilton never "appreciated how lucky he was" during his time at McLaren.

Bernie Ecclestone Delighted with Ferrari Progress in 2015

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    Bernie Ecclestone has revealed Ferrari's resurgence has been his personal highlight of the 2015 season and praised Sebastian Vettel's impact on the Prancing Horse.

    After suffering their first winless season in 21 years in 2014, Ferrari—reorganised by new team principal Maurizio Arrivabene and armed with a vastly improved power unit as well as a chassis designed by James Allison—have been the closest challengers to world champions Mercedes this year.

    Vettel, a major signing from Red Bull Racing, has claimed a total of 13 podium finishes—including three assured victories in Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore—while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has secured nine top-five results.

    Although Ecclestone has previously criticised Arrivabene, telling the official F1 website in May that Arrivabene is "only" out "for himself and not for Formula One," F1's ringmaster feels Ferrari's recovery has been crucial for the sport.

    And he believes four-time world champion Vettel, having bounced back from a winless season of his own in 2014, must now be regarded among the greatest drivers in the history of F1, telling Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t ESPN F1's Nate Saunders):

    The best part is summed up in one word: Ferrari. Their return to victory was very important for me and for all of Formula One. It was expected. The surprise is that they are back on top so quickly. 

    I supported Vettel's move to Ferrari and when I saw him cross the finish line first at Sepang it was fantastic...A driver needs to be judged by the environment. There are a lot of drivers who with a good car could contend for victory instead of being anonymous. Vettel has had good cars but he added a lot himself and I would rate him in the top four ever, with (Lewis) Hamilton, (Michael) Schumacher and (Fernando) Alonso.

    Ferrari's strong, consistent performances throughout this season has led to excitement over what the team can achieve in 2016, with Arrivabene recently telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble that the Prancing Horse "must be in front (of Mercedes) next year."

Valtteri Bottas Eager to Beat Kimi Raikkonen to 4th in the Championship

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    Valtteri Bottas is determined to beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth place in the drivers' standings in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    For the second year in succession, Bottas enters the final race of the season with his position in the championship on the line.

    A podium finish in last season's race, his sixth of 2014, allowed him to beat multiple world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso to fourth in the standings, and Bottas is hoping to repeat the trick this weekend.

    Ahead of the final event of 2015, fourth-placed Bottas holds a one-point lead over Raikkonen with Williams team-mate Felipe Massa 19 points behind and almost certain to finish no higher than sixth.

    The only Finnish drivers on the current grid, Bottas and Raikkonen have been almost inseparable in recent races, colliding in Russia and Mexico. 

    And while Bottas has insisted he has no great ambition to beat Raikkonen on a personal level, the 26-year-old—who missed the first race of the season with a back injury—is keen to finish as high as possible in the standings and ahead of a driver behind the wheel of a faster car.

    Bottas, who was the leading contender to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari before the 2007 world champion earned a contract extension in August, told Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde

    I think the main thing would be for us as a team to be at least ahead of one quicker car in the championship, with me that would be nice.

    For me it doesn't change at all if it's Kimi or someone else I'm fighting with for that position.

    As a driver I want to get every position that's possible, of course.

    With the car we have and with what we are doing as a team I want to get the maximum out of it and the maximum ranking in the championship. ...

    It would be nice to finish high in the race, and hopefully on the podium even.

    I think it's not a bad track for us but Ferrari has been very quick on Sundays lately so we need to see if we have enough pace to challenge them.

    Raikkonen, meanwhile, has offered a frank assessment of his 2015 campaign, telling Elizalde in a separate Motorsport.com article that his season—he has only registered two podium finishes, the same amount as Bottas and Massa—has been "pretty average."

Daniel Ricciardo to Use Old-Spec Renault Engine in Abu Dhabi

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    Daniel Ricciardo will use an old-specification Renault engine in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following Red Bull Racing's failed experiment in Brazil.

    After deciding against using the new Renault power unit in the United States and Mexico, Red Bull opted to try the updated engine in Brazil, with Ricciardo taking a 10-place grid penalty for the privilege.

    The new powertrain, however, failed to deliver, with Ricciardo consistently slower than team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was still using the older engine, at Interlagos.

    As reported by Autosport's Lawrence Barretto, it soon emerged that Renault had made only a "partial" upgrade, having spent only seven development tokens when it initially intended to use 11.

    At that stage, it was unclear whether Renault would introduce the fully updated engine in time for the Abu Dhabi race, but both team and engine manufacturer have decided to revert to the "Spec-A version" after "detailed analysis of the performance of the Spec-B unit," per Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble.

    Cyril Abiteboul, the Renault F1 managing director, believes the French manufacturer's poor relationship with Red Bull—as well as the uncertainty surrounding the team's future—has contributed to the unsuccessful engine experiment, but he has admitted the company should have been smarter when improving the power unit.

    He told the same source:

    It is true that recent history and uncertainty with Red Bull have loosened the technical collaboration that there was between our respective teams.

    Our dialogue has almost stopped. It was only fair for next year, but maybe where we should have been a bit more careful was that it didn't stop for this year.

    It meant we were not maximising the performance improvement of that engine, because if you change one element of the power unit you need to think of the side effect of all the other elements of the power unit.

    Because Ricciardo's old engine has already participated in a grand prix weekend, the Australian will not suffer a grid penalty at the Yas Marina circuit.

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