Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2015

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and More

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    After securing his third world championship, Lewis Hamilton provided his Mercedes team with a headache in the closing races of the 2015 Formula One season.

    As his form mysteriously evaporated and team-mate Nico Rosberg embarked upon a run of three consecutive victories, Hamilton required careful management from his Mercedes colleagues as he frequently challenged the team's strategy calls in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

    But despite his liveliness over pit-to-car radio, Hamilton has claimed he would never disrespect his team by ignoring their advice.

    As Sebastian Vettel's wing man, meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen is unlikely to cause any trouble at Ferrari.

    Despite recovering from the worst season of his F1 career in 2014 to claim three podium finishes and fourth place in the drivers' championship in 2015, Raikkonen retains the aura of a driver whose best days are well and truly behind him.

    Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, however, has backed the 2007 world champion to challenge Vettel in 2016, revealing he has been encouraged by changes in Raikkonen's approach.

    While Ferrari prepare for a potential title challenge next season, Red Bull Racing are bracing themselves for an interim year.

    With an engine contract signed and sealed, Red Bull will race on in 2016, but technical boss Adrian Newey has predicted the four-time world champions will be further away from the front than ever before. He has, though, explained why he believes McLaren-Honda are on course for bigger and better things after a disastrous season.

    In a sport where everyone seems to be out for themselves, it is uplifting to see some reaching out to help others, with the father of the late Jules Bianchi unveiling his plans to help talented young drivers reach their potential.

    Closing our latest roundup is the manager of Michael Schumacher, who has criticised false reports relating to the condition of the seven-time world champion as he continues his recovery from a 2013 skiing accident.

Lewis Hamilton Would Never Ignore Mercedes' Instructions to Win

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    Lewis Hamilton has insisted he would never consider disobeying the instructions of his Mercedes team to win a race, despite daring to do so in the closing weeks of the 2015 season.

    After sealing his third world championship at October's United States Grand Prix, Hamilton failed to win any of the final three races of the campaign, which saw the British driver frequently question his team's strategy.

    At the Mexican GP, Hamilton initially refused to pit for new tyres when his race engineer, Pete Bonnington, asked, with the 30-year-old pleading to be put on a different strategy to team-mate Nico Rosberg over pit-to-car radio in Brazil.

    Mercedes bowed to their driver's request in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, where the three-time world champion stopped later than Rosberg, but Hamilton again needed to be managed from the pit wall after considering the idea of a one-stop strategy.

    Hamilton's behaviour had led to suggestions that he would be prepared to ignore the team's guidance to win a grand prix in the future, with team boss Toto Wolff recently telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble he will consider changing Mercedes' lineup if the tension between his current drivers creates a poisonous atmosphere within the garage.

    But Hamilton has claimed his responsibility to the team, who have won 32 of the last 38 races, means he would never make a selfish decision, telling Autosport's Ian Parkes:

    It's a question of whether or not it's the right decision for the team because you also have to step back and realise it's not just about yourself.

    It's about 1,300 people, and the decision I selfishly make can impact all of them.

    So, no, I don't make a decision for myself. I want to make sure I make the right decision on behalf of everyone. ...

    When you are in a car you don't have the bigger picture, hence the reason why you do have to fall back and rely on those guys quite a lot.

    The majority of the time the team is obviously in the best position, but every now and then the driver might be in a better position.

    But you work as a team. It's not about you on your own out there.

    Hamilton's willingness to challenge Mercedes' decisions may stem from the events of May's Monaco GP, when team and driver conspired to lose the win after making an unnecessary tyre change late in the race, per Sky Sports.

Ferrari Expect Big Things for Kimi Raikkonen in 2016

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    Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari president, believes Kimi Raikkonen will recover from an inconsistent 2015 to challenge team-mate Sebastian Vettel on a regular basis next season.

    While Vettel claimed 13 podium finishes, including three victories in Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore, in his first season as a Ferrari driver, Raikkonen was restricted to just three top-three results as he struggled to match the four-time world champion's pace.

    The last driver to win the drivers' championship for Ferrari in 2007, Raikkonen was considered fortunate to retain his place at the team for 2016 after a poor run of form during the midseason stage, which culminated in his first-lap elimination from the Austrian GP.

    Raikkonen made no attempt to disguise his disappointment with his 2015 results in an FIA press conference ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, where he described his year as "pretty average" and "far away from what it should be."

    At 36, Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the grid, and Marchionne believes the 20-time grand prix winner—whose partner, Minttu Virtanen, gave birth to his first child in January—is constantly maturing.

    And the Ferrari head expects the changes in his personal life to be evident on the track in 2016, telling Autosport's Lawrence Barretto:

    I've seen a huge change in Kimi during the season.

    The second half of the season was much better than the first half. It was like watching a movie.

    We were talking with some of our colleagues in the last few days and I think we are beginning to look at a different Kimi.

    The fact he is married with a kid, he showed me a picture of his son earlier this month, he's a proud father.

    It's reflective of the changes in his own life. I think he is becoming a lot more settled, which I think will be helpful in 2016.

    I think he's going to be probably the most engaged that we have seen him in the last little while and I'm delighted he's part of the team. ...

    We have two drivers and they do compete and it just happens Sebastian has had a phenomenal year in his first year. 

    I'm expecting Kimi will rise up to the challenge and have a phenomenal challenge in 2016. And I think he can. He's a good kid.

    Marchionne, along with new team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, was responsible for the restructuring process at Ferrari over the winter of 2013-14.

    And Raikkonen has declared the new-look Prancing Horse a success, telling ESPN F1's Laurence Edmondson how "the atmosphere overall has been very good in the team this year" compared to 2014, when he worked under three different team bosses during Ferrari's first winless season in more than two decades.

Adrian Newey Fears for Red Bull, Wary of McLaren-Honda in 2016

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    Adrian Newey believes McLaren-Honda will make considerable progress with their V6 turbo power unit ahead of 2016 but fears Red Bull Racing may have to wait for a return to the front of the grid.

    After trying and failing to exit their long-term technical partnership with Renault in 2015, Red Bull will compete with TAG Heuer-branded Renault engines next season in a compromise deal with the French manufacturer.

    The agreement is unlikely to allow the four-time world champions, who finished a distant fourth in this year's constructors' championship, to compete for regular podiums and race victories once again in 2016.

    While Newey is convinced Red Bull will make improvements to their chassis, the semi-retired technical chief is concerned the lack of progress shown by Renault will allow Mercedes and Ferrari to extend their advantage next year, telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble

    I think it is going to be an extremely difficult season for us frankly.

    If we start the engine with the same power as we have had throughout 2014 and 2015, which I think may well be the case, then we are going to be even further behind.

    According to our own research we found some reasonable gains on the chassis side, but the works teams will of course all move forward. Mercedes and Ferrari will move forwards.

    Prior to their announcement of the TAG Heuer arrangement, Red Bull held talks with Honda regarding an engine supply for 2016, before McLaren chairman Ron Dennis blocked the potential deal, per Crash.net.

    Despite Honda's underpowered, inefficient and unreliable engine resulting in McLaren's lowly ninth-place finish in the championship, Newey believes the Japanese manufacturer will resolve its issues in time for the new season.

    He has also admitted Red Bull may be forced to pin their hopes on the next wave of regulation changes, which are set to come into effect from the beginning of 2017, to return to competitiveness, telling the same source:

    Toro Rosso, our sister team by having a 2015 Ferrari (engine), will be considerably ahead of this year's Renault power unit.

    I believe Honda, what we have seen, will make a good step. I think their internal combustion engine is a reasonable engine.

    Their problem this year has been that they made the recovery units on the turbo, the MGU-H, far too small. But that is an easy problem to address over the winter.

    So, next year's going to be very difficult for us. It's really down to, I think, what happens next with the sport, for 2017 and beyond.

    Is there desire from the governing body to allow private teams such as ourselves to properly have competitive engines or not?

    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has agreed with Newey's assessment, telling Noble in a separate Motorsport.com article that the start of 2016 will be "tough" for the team.

    After Red Bull's difficulties in securing an engine-supply deal, however, he has taken encouragement that the "sleeping dogs" in charge of F1 are fully aware of the perils of the V6 regulations.

Jules Bianchi Foundation to Be Created to Aid Youngsters, Says Father

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    The father of the late Jules Bianchi has revealed plans to launch a foundation in memory of his son, dedicated to unearthing talented young drivers.

    After losing control of his Marussia car and hitting a recovery vehicle in the rain-interrupted Japanese Grand Prix of 2014, Bianchi suffered severe head injuries and died in July this year at the age of 25.

    Nine days after his son's passing, Philippe Bianchi and other members of the Frenchman's family attended the Hungarian Grand Prix, where each car ran with a tribute and the drivers gathered to observe a minute's silence prior to the start of the race.

    In September, Mr. Bianchi told BBC Sport's Dan Roan how it was still "too difficult" for him to watch a grand prix and vowed to "make a foundation" to help young drivers rise through the ranks in the same way as his son, who was a highly regarded member of Ferrari's young-driver program.

    And he has revealed more details about the scheme, explaining he has received the backing of Prince Albert of Monaco to form a permanent tribute to ensure Bianchi's legacy lives on.

    He told Auto Hebdo (h/t F1i.com):

    I am currently creating a Jules Bianchi Foundation in Monaco with support from Prince Albert, who was also deeply affected by the tragedy. We will show Jules’ go-karts and single-seaters, as well as personal pictures and videos. We’ll also have merchandising with JB17 branding, sponsoring opportunities and events.

    All this will contribute to a fund destined for talented youngsters, spotted either through detection of referral, before accompanying them throughout their careers. We want to offer them what we did for Jules.

    If we want to see another generation of [Ayrton] Sennas, [Alain] Prosts, [Michael] Schumachers, and others, this is the only genuinely sound solution. Too many youngsters miss out on opportunities due to a lack of funding. This is why for instance I asked Nicolas Todt to sign up [top 2015 Euro F3 rookie] Charles Leclerc, who is now part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

    [The foundation] will mostly be focused on motor racing but other sports could come into consideration on a case by case basis. Meanwhile, we are also working on launching a JB17 karting chassis. Jules would have loved to do that, had he had the time.

    Nice-born Bianchi secured his best F1 result on the streets of Monaco, where he recorded a ninth-place finish just months prior to his ultimately fatal accident.

Michael Schumacher's Manager Dismisses Latest Report

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    Sabine Kehm, the manager of Michael Schumacher, has dismissed a report claiming the seven-time world champion's health has dramatically improved.

    It is almost two years since Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of Formula One, suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in Meribel, France.

    The German left a Swiss hospital to continue his recovery at home in September 2014, and there have been few updates regarding his health since, with FIA president Jean Todt—a former Ferrari colleague and a close family friend—telling reporters that Schumacher was "still fighting" in November, per Sky Sports.

    A report in German magazine Bunte (h/t Express) quoted "an unnamed confidante" as claiming a "very thin" Schumacher is now able to "walk a little with the help of his therapists" and is also able to "raise an arm."

    Kehm, however, has denied the report, criticising those who offer false hope to Schumacher's well-wishers. Per Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble, she said in a statement:

    Unfortunately, we are forced by a recent press report to clarify that the assertion that Michael could move again is not true.

    Such speculation is irresponsible, because given the seriousness of his injuries, his privacy is very important for Michael. Unfortunately they also give false hopes to many involved people.

    Schumacher's 16-year-old son, Mick, made his car-racing debut in 2015, claiming two podium finishes—including a race victory—in the ADAC Formula 4 series.

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