Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari and More
Max Verstappen may have beaten him to a seat at Red Bull Racing, but Carlos Sainz Jr.'s potential Formula One career path has suddenly become much clearer.
If he can finish off the career of new Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat, and if the might of Ferrari can persuade Daniel Ricciardo to join former sparring partner Sebastian Vettel (a big "if" admittedly), Sainz will be virtually assured of a Red Bull seat for the 2017 season.
That is why Sainz was not as disheartened as you might think when he heard of Verstappen's promotion and why the 21-year-old is sensing an opportunity ahead of his home race at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.
Also planning to reign in Spain are Ferrari, who remain without a win since last September. Vettel retired from the recent Russian GP, where Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a distant third behind the all-conquering Mercedes drivers.
Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has upped the pressure on his team in recent weeks but has spoken of his confidence of winning the Spanish GP if Vettel and Raikkonen benefit from a change of fortune.
Lewis Hamilton will also be hoping for better luck at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya—a track where he has only triumphed once in nine attempts—after suffering a number of reliability problems in China and Russia.
Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe has vowed the team are working to solve those niggles and believes Hamilton will recover from his slow start to the season to challenge team-mate Nico Rosberg, who has expressed his support for the increased restrictions on team radio.
Closing our latest roundup is Stoffel Vandoorne, who has suggested he may have alternative options if McLaren-Honda decide not to promote him to a race seat for 2017.
Carlos Sainz Jr. Confident He Will Follow Max Verstappen to Red Bull
Carlos Sainz Jr. is certain he will be offered the opportunity to race for Red Bull in the future following Max Verstappen's promotion from Toro Rosso.
Following Daniil Kvyat's disastrous performance in the Russian Grand Prix, 18-year-old Verstappen has been elevated to the senior Red Bull outfit in time for this weekend's Spanish GP, with Kvyat returning to the B-team alongside Sainz for the remainder of the 2016 season.
Having fared well against Verstappen since the pair made their F1 debuts at the beginning of 2015, Sainz—who is three years Verstappen's senior—has admitted it was initially disappointing to learn his team-mate was chosen to partner Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.
But although his own chances of joining Red Bull are likely to hinge on whether Ferrari can successfully lure Ricciardo away from the four-time world champions, the Madrid-born driver is hopeful his chance will come.
Ahead of his home race, Sainz told Spanish reporters, per Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde:
Frankly, when I heard that they were moving Max up, I'm not going to lie, I would have liked it to be me.
You obviously want it to be yourself who moves to Red Bull, but then when you think about it quietly and I see it more and more in a positive way.
In the end, in Red Bull's plan or in my own plan, Red Bull was never a target for 2016, so it's not like anyone has failed. My goal is still to be with Red Bull in 2017 or 2018.
In the end they analyse the results better than anyone and they know what I'm capable of. They have been comparing me with Max for one-and-a-half years and they know what I can do, so if he got the chance it means that if I turn the speed that I've shown so far into results, the opportunity can come at any moment.
I know that if I do well, I'll have my chance too.
Per the same source, Sainz insisted his "goal" and "personal situation" hasn't changed in light of Verstappen's move, suggesting his results were often "camouflaged by things he was doing" due to the high "media attention" surrounding his former team-mate.
Sainz also offered his support to new team-mate Kvyat, who he previously partnered in Formula BMW, Formula Renault and GP3, adding the Russian remains "a very good driver" and will be a "very tough rival" as Toro Rosso target fifth place in the constructors' standings.
Sergio Marchionne Backing Ferrari to Win Spanish Grand Prix
Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has ordered the team to return to winning ways at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.
Although Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have impressed at various stages over the opening four events of the season, Ferrari are still without a victory since September 2015 and have struggled to enjoy a trouble-free race during this year's campaign so far.
After Raikkonen and Vettel retired in Australia and Bahrain, respectively, on-track collisions harmed their progress in China and Russia, where the latter was hit twice by Daniil Kvyat on the opening lap and fell 67 points behind runaway championship leader Nico Rosberg.
Marchionne has struggled to hide his dissatisfaction with Ferrari's slow start to the campaign, telling Sky Sports' James Galloway how the team "need to start winning some races and bringing them home" at the Chinese GP, warning "the clock is on."
Just 24 hours following Vettel's retirement at the Sochi Autodrom, meanwhile, Marchionne told Italian media (h/t Motorsport.com) the team must "close the gap [to Mercedes] at the speed of light," adding it "breaks [his] soul to see a Ferrari that is suffering so much."
And the 63-year-old is hopeful that suffering will ease at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this Sunday.
As reported by Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde, he said:
I am confident.
Sunday will be an important day. So far, much of it was down to bad luck, but the season has just begun.
I expect us to win shortly, starting with Spain.
I'm very satisfied with both Vettel and Raikkonen. The only thing that hasn't worked well is luck.
Per the same source, Marchionne offered an update on his campaign to return the Alfa Romeo name to F1, suggesting "it will depend on the success" of the Italian brand's road cars.
Meanwhile, Motorsport.com's Franco Nugnes has reported Ferrari may attempt to sign Toro Rosso technical director James Key, dismissing a report in Italian publication Autosprint that current technical chief James Allison could replace team principal Maurizio Arrivabene later this season.
Mercedes' Paddy Lowe Expects Lewis Hamilton to 'Get Through' Tough Time
Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe has expressed his confidence that Lewis Hamilton will bounce back from his unfortunate start to the 2016 season.
After failing to convert pole positions in Australia and Bahrain, the three-time world champion has suffered several technical problems in recent weeks, with MGU-H issues preventing him from taking full part in qualifying sessions in China and Russia.
With Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg winning each of the opening four races and establishing a 43-point lead in the drivers' standings, Hamilton will have to come from behind if he is to claim a third consecutive title in 2016.
Likening Hamilton's current predicament to 2014, when the British driver was hindered by a number of reliability glitches in his battle with Rosberg, Lowe—who recently told the team's official website how fixing the MGU-H is his "highest priority—has admitted Mercedes feel guilty about the No. 44 car's problems.
And the 54-year-old, who has worked with Hamilton almost throughout his F1 career having followed the driver from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, has faith in the 43-time race winner to bounce back, telling Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper:
We'll get through it, and I think Lewis will get through it. It's very early in the season, the whole point is you take on race at a time in this business, and keep on doing your best.
We always do our very best to give both drivers the very best equipment we can, and we'll carry on doing so.
We feel really badly for Lewis because we've really let him down in terms of his competition with Nico.
Funnily enough in 2014 we didn't have many engine problems, but even amongst the eight engines they all seemed to land on Lewis.
Again, we've got eight engines and the problems are landing that way. Not very many problems, but they seem to be falling there.
After Mercedes were accused of sabotaging Hamilton's car at the Russian GP, Hamilton used his official Instagram account to urge his followers to "trust" and "respect" his team.
Nico Rosberg Believes 2016 Team Radio Restrictions Are Working
Nico Rosberg has insisted the increased team radio restrictions are succeeding by forcing drivers to work more independently.
In September 2014, the FIA announced plans to limit the amount of information being fed to the drivers by teams amid fears that the supposed stars of the show were being spoon-fed by their engineers.
Those restrictions were further tightened at the beginning of 2016, leading to concerns that spectators have been denied the valuable insight provided by team radio messages that were broadcast over the FOM television feed in the past.
However, Rosberg is adamant the rules have provided the drivers with a worthwhile challenge, forcing them to conduct more preparation ahead of the grand prix.
Per Autosport's Lawrence Barretto, he said:
I like the direction because now we're more on our own.
What's more important now is the pre-race preparation where we work more intensely together through all these different things [my engineer] can't tell me in the race.
There's more focus on that. It's more intense and complex.
In the race it's good. We're out there, we get the job done ourselves and it's a real challenge, I like it.
To everybody at home who said that we looked like 'muppets' directed by our engineers on radio, that's stopped now so it's a good direction.
Rosberg added that his "close relationship" with race engineer Tony Ross has aided his adjustment to the increased restrictions, insisting his long-term colleague still plays an "important" role in his success on track.
Meanwhile, Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble has reported the ban on the discarding of helmet tear-off strips on track will be delayed until the Monaco Grand Prix, with teams set to "trial" ideas during the post-Spanish GP test.
The plastic films have often been collected by cars on track in recent times, with Fernando Alonso forced to retire from last year's Spanish GP after a tear-off blocked a cooling duct and overheated his brakes.
McLaren-Honda Reserve Stoffel Vandoorne Admits 'Interest' from Other Teams
McLaren-Honda reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne has admitted he is attracting interest from other teams following his assured F1 debut in April's Bahrain Grand Prix.
After dominating GP2, F1's official feeder series, in 2015, the Belgian made his first grand prix appearance at the Sakhir circuit earlier this season, when he deputised for the injured Fernando Alonso.
Despite a lack of preparation—Vandoorne had never driven the MP4-31 car until Friday practice—the 24-year-old outqualified team-mate Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, before registering McLaren's first point of 2016 in the race itself.
With much uncertainty surrounding the future of 36-year-old Button—who could yet postpone his retirement by returning to Williams, as F1 commentator David Croft recently told Sky Sports—Vandoorne may be set to earn a full-time drive with McLaren for 2017.
And although Vandoorne—who is combining his reserve-driver duties with a race seat in Japan's Super Formula category in 2016 and will represent McLaren in the upcoming post-Spanish GP test—has revealed he is attracting interest from rival teams, he insisted his priority is to race for McLaren next season.
Per Autosport's Edd Straw and Ian Parkes, he said: "There is definitely some interest around, which is normal.
"But I feel happy with McLaren. I have a contract here and my aim is still to be on the grid with them next year."
After Vandoorne's 10th-place finish in Bahrain, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier acknowledged "a lot of people have their eyes on him" but insisted there was "no pressure" on the team to decide their 2017 driver lineup, per Sky Sports' Matthew Morlidge.
Should McLaren decide against promoting Vandoorne, a possible destination could be Renault, who were linked to the youngster prior to their purchase of the Lotus team at the end of 2015.
At the time, Frederic Vasseur—who oversaw Vandoorne's progress in GP2 and has since become Renault's racing director—told Motorsport.com Valentin Khorounzhiy it would be "an absolute denial of the ladder system" if he didn't find a place on the 2016 grid.