Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2016

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and More

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    As the 2016 Formula One season gets set to resume with the Monaco Grand Prix, all eyes will be on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg following their first-lap crash in Spain on May 15.

    The drivers have clashed on several occasions since Mercedes' rise to prominence at the beginning of 2014, but the Spanish GP was the first time both drivers were forced to retire as a direct result of an on-track collision.

    An incident of that magnitude would normally risk splitting a team in half, but Hamilton has insisted his relationship with Rosberg remains unchanged after clear-the-air talks ahead of the Monte Carlo weekend.

    If there are any cracks in the relationship between the Mercedes team-mates, Fernando Alonso—still searching for that elusive third world championship—will almost certainly try his hardest to widen them.

    Alonso was recently linked to a move to the Silver Arrows if Rosberg decides against extending his contract, but the Spaniard has spoken of his confidence that his team, McLaren-Honda, can overhaul the might of Mercedes in the near future.

    Meanwhile, one of Alonso's former teams, Renault, are set to make a step forward in performance in Monaco as they compete with a new-and-improved engine.

    Kevin Magnussen has been granted the honour of racing the powertrain for the first time, and the Dane has explained why the unit will enhance the competitiveness of Renault and customers Red Bull.

    Having decided to promote Max Verstappen alongside Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Spanish GP, Red Bull are unlikely to play a major role in this year's driver market, but one team determined to take the initiative are Williams, who have hinted they may be open to replacing Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

    Closing our latest roundup is Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, who is struggling to accept the loss of his Red Bull seat to Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg Hold Clear-the-Air Discussion Ahead of Monaco GP

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    Lewis Hamilton has held clear-the-air talks with Nico Rosberg ahead of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix and insisted there is still plenty of respect between the Mercedes team-mates.

    For the first time since their clash in the 2014 Belgian GP at Spa, Hamilton and Rosberg collided with disastrous consequences at the recent Spanish GP, with both drivers retiring after just four corners of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya race.

    The incident raised further questions over the relationship between the two drivers, who have been embroiled in a number of controversies over the course of the last two seasons when they fought exclusively for the drivers' title.

    However, Hamilton revealed on Wednesday there is no bitterness between the drivers, who have met to discuss the Spanish GP incident.

    Per Sky Sports' Pete Gill and James Galloway, the three-time world champion said:

    We stood and spoke to each other today and there are no problems. In the past there would have been tension but now it was pure respect, 'I still have respect for you,' and he said the same.

    I guess we are just getting old! 

    We know what happened and we know how we felt. All you need to know is that the respect is still there.

    It was a racing incident and there will be many close racing incidents like that. There'll be many racing incidents throughout our racing career together—particularly when you are fighting that close.

    I'm not changing my approach, Nico's not changing his, so we are going to just keep going. Of course, we are conscious we don't want to have the same result as we did in the last one. But these things you learn from.

    Per Galloway, Rosberg referred to the race as "a thing of the past now," supporting Hamilton's suggestion the relationship between the pair is "the same as before."

    Mercedes' first double retirement since the 2011 Australian GP means Rosberg maintains a 43-point advantage over Hamilton in the drivers' standings ahead of Monaco, a race he has won for the last three seasons.

Fernando Alonso Shares Ron Dennis Optimism over McLaren-Honda Title Prospects

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    Fernando Alonso has backed McLaren-Honda chairman Ron Dennis' suggestion the team could be the one to end Mercedes' dominance of Formula One in the near future.

    Although the Woking-based outfit is without a grand prix victory since November 2012—and a title of any kind since 2008—chairman Dennis recently told BBC Sport's Andrew Benson of his belief that McLaren will be the team to dethrone two-time world champions Mercedes.

    With major regulation changes set to be introduced in 2017, Dennis predicted next season will offer McLaren "a good chance" to return to winning ways, adding he has "reason to genuinely believe" the team will claim the championship before the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari.

    After enduring their worst season in 35 years in 2015, McLaren have made a steady start to the 2016 campaign, scoring points in three of the opening five races.

    And Alonso believes Red Bull's status as a Renault customer team, as well as Ferrari's failure to win a championship since 2008, means McLaren may be the ones to bring the dominance of Mercedes, who have won all but seven races since the beginning of 2014, to an end.

    Per Sky Sports' Pete Gill, the two-time world champion—who has been linked with a move to Mercedes after team boss Toto Wolff told Spanish publication El Mundo (h/t F1i.com) Alonso could replace Nico Rosberg for 2017—said:

    Will we be the first to stop Mercedes' domination? I don't know yet but it's quite possible. Red Bull are a top team but not having a big engine manufacturer in this F1 is tough and Ferrari will always be competitive but always maybe missing the last bit.

    It is difficult to know how things will change next year and what the mix of competitiveness will be, but l see this project going in the right direction.

    Last year we had a lot of difficulties and underperformed. We just had to hope last year that things would get better. This year, there is something more than hope. We have started touching results and everything in the background makes a lot of sense and we can be more confident than we were a year ago.

    Meanwhile, Alonso has expressed his bemusement with the new rule concerning helmet tear-off strips, which will prevent drivers from discarding the plastic films on the track from the Monaco Grand Prix.

    According to Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble, the Spaniard joked the rule could lead to some "18-plus" solutions if drivers decided to stuff the strips inside the cockpit, but predicted most drivers will remove their tear-offs in the pit lane.

Kevin Magnussen Excited by New Renault Engine Ahead of Monaco Debut

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    Kevin Magnussen has expressed his excitement over the potential of Renault's upgraded power unit as he prepares to debut the new engine at the Monaco Grand Prix.

    Having struggled since the V6 turbo regulations were introduced at the beginning of 2014, Renault made decent progress during the off-season and are set for another leap forward in engine performance in Monte Carlo.

    After Renault and Red Bull evaluated the new powertrain at the recent post-Spanish GP test, Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo were chosen to race the engine—which is thought to be worth around 0.5 seconds per lap—for the first time in Monaco, with Jolyon Palmer and Max Verstappen to receive the update in Canada.

    Magnussen praised his team's work on the new engine, suggesting it is unusual for manufacturers to make such considerable gains under the current in-season development token system.

    According to Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde, he said:

    I can't really quantify it. It's better. It depends on the track, really. It's a good improvement. Renault has done a really, really good job with this, especially considering it's during the season.

    To make a big step in the middle of the season is quite impressive.

    One of the concerns for Monaco was the driveability, and actually the driveability is better, so that's something that's going to help a lot around here.

    I think Renault, on the engine side, went in the wrong direction with the old power unit and they realised that and fixed it and went in the other direction and now we are seeing the gains from that.

    So it's not just about investment. It's also that but it's not only that. It's also a change of philosophy.

    Per the same source, Magnussen admitted it is "tough to watch" Red Bull claiming podiums and race victories despite using the same engine as Renault, who have scored just six points in the opening five races and "just need to kick ourselves in the ass and get on with it."

    Meanwhile, Palmer insisted he feels no frustration about having to wait until the Canadian GP to compete with the new powertrain.

    The British driver told Wednesday's FIA press conference it is "normal" Magnussen would "get it for this one" because of the Dane's participation in the recent test session and his higher position in the standings.

Williams Eager to Play an Active Role in Driver Market Ahead of 2017

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    Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams has revealed they are determined to play an active role in this year's driver market, stressing the importance of Williams making their "own decisions" over their 2017 lineup.

    Since becoming team-mates at the beginning of 2014, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas have established one of the most evenly matched partnerships in F1, helping Williams claim two successive third-place finishes in the constructors' championship. 

    But with the 35-year-old Massa edging ever closer to retirement and Bottas potentially set to attract interest from rivals teams, the Grove-based outfit may enter 2017 with two new drivers.

    And Claire Williams believes her team must take the initiative in F1's latest edition of musical chairs, telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble: "We want to own our driver lineup decision this year. Waiting around for dominoes to fall in other teams is not on our agenda. That is not how we want to play the 2017 lineup. We want to make our own decisions."

    In February, chief technical officer Pat Symonds told Autosport's Lawrence Barretto how Williams will always prioritise the development of their car over a "superstar" signing, joking the team "may not eat for a year" if they were to sign a high-profile driver.

    Symonds added the Massa-Bottas partnership is "perfect," suggesting he would retain Williams' current drivers if he had "a totally free hand." Although Claire Williams has insisted she is "very happy" with Bottas and Massa, she has indicated a willingness to sign a big-name driver, telling Noble:

    That is what we set about as our target for our driver lineup when we made our transition a few years ago.

    We wanted to make sure that we had drivers in the car who bought everything that we believe a driver needs to bring a team—and of course experience is one of those elements.

    So having a name in your car is something that works really well for you commercially. But having a name clearly means they have had a successful time in F1 because they have been in the sport a long time.

    But there are so many different elements to it and the decision-making process. It is a process that we are going through at the moment and evaluating.

    David Croft, an F1 commentator, recently told Sky Sports how Williams could sign Jenson Button for 2017 after the 2009 world champion "very nearly" rejoined the team at the end of last year.

    As reported by Sky Sports' William Esler and James Galloway, meanwhile, Sauber's Felipe Nasr—who held a reserve-driver role at Williams in 2014—was "believed to be in contention" to replace Bottas in mid-2015, when the Finn was strongly linked with Ferrari.

    Williams reserve driver Alex Lynn has also expressed his desire to earn a full-time seat with the team in 2017, per F1 journalist James Allen.

Daniil Kvyat Insists He Would Have Beaten Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull in 2016

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    Daniil Kvyat is adamant he would have outscored Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull in 2016 had the team not replaced him with Max Verstappen ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

    After an impressive debut campaign at Toro Rosso in 2014, Kvyat was promoted to Red Bull to replace Sebastian Vettel for 2015, with his arrival coinciding with the team's first winless season in seven years.

    Despite a difficult start, the Russian improved across the season and claimed the first podium finish of his career in Hungary, ultimately finishing ahead of three-time race winner Ricciardo in the drivers' standings.

    Kvyat made another slow start to 2016 but recovered to register another podium finish in China a fortnight before a first-lap meltdown in his home race in Russia, which saw him hit Vettel twice in the space of two corners. That led to his swap with the 18-year-old Verstappen, who won on his Red Bull debut in Spain.

    Insisting he did "absolutely everything right" in his time at Red Bull, who "got what they expected from" him, Kvyat rejected the notion he was promoted to the senior team too soon in his career.

    Per Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Lawrence Barretto, he explained:

    The circumstances in which I approached Red Bull Racing [were that] the car was worse than the last year.

    It is easy for first year drivers at the time to look amazing.

    I believe the circumstances back then were not favourable but then they started to get better and better.

    The second half of the season for me at Red Bull Racing, it was good, stable.

    I was matching and beating Daniel, I scored more points than Daniel and it would have been the same this year again.

    All the things about a "too early" approach are bulls--t.

    Alexander Wurz, the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, offered his sympathy to Kvyat, telling Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde how the Russian is facing "a very character-building period of his life" and is in "a very brutal situation for such a young boy."

    Wurz has backed Kvyat, whom he described as a "good guy" with "the head and the heart in the right place," to "turn the anger, which is completely understandable, into positive energy to come back stronger."


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