Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2016

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and More

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    With six grands prix completed, Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari remain without a win in the 2016 Formula One season.

    Sitting a distant fifth in the drivers' standings—more than 40 points behind the leader, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg—the 28-year-old is unlikely to add to his four world championships at the end of this year.

    But Vettel has defended the Prancing Horse's start to the campaign and explained why he believes Ferrari are the most ambitious team in F1.

    The German was denied a fourth podium appearance of the season at the recent Monaco Grand Prix, where he was pipped to third place by Sergio Perez, who timed his pit stops to perfection in changeable conditions.

    After claiming his third podium finish in as many seasons for Force India, the Mexican believes he is ready to be offered another chance at a leading team and has pleaded with the paddock to stop judging him on his short, unsuccessful stint at McLaren in 2013.

    Red Bull, meanwhile, registered their second consecutive podium finish since October 2014 on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, but that was of little significance after a slow pit stop prevented Daniel Ricciardo converting his maiden pole position into victory.

    An upgraded power unit was partly responsible for Ricciardo's speed in Monaco, and team principal Christian Horner praised Renault's efforts after Red Bull extended their engine-supply deal, suggesting his harsh treatment of the French manufacturer in 2015 was worth it in the end.

    With Toro Rosso switching back to Renault power in 2017, Daniil Kvyat is unlikely to sample those improvements after admitting he is likely to leave the Red Bull family to develop his career next season, having lost his Red Bull seat to Max Verstappen.

    Closing our latest roundup is Marcus Ericsson, who has revealed he will seek clear-the-air talks with team-mate Felipe Nasr following the Sauber drivers' collision in Monaco.

Sebastian Vettel Feels Ferrari Are F1's Most 'Ambitious' Team

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    Sebastian Vettel has defended Ferrari's sluggish start to the 2016 season, insisting the team are the most ambitious on the grid.

    After winning three races and finishing second in the constructors' standings in 2015, Ferrari were expected to challenge for the world championship this year but have failed to win any of the opening six grands prix of 2016.

    Vettel sits fifth in the drivers' standings, 46 points adrift of championship leader Nico Rosberg. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who hasn't won a race since March 2013, is one place higher.

    With both drivers suffering two retirements each over the course of the first six races, Ferrari are already 67 points adrift of Mercedes in the constructors' rankings, and the Silver Arrows have won all but one race thus far.

    However, Vettel is convinced that while Ferrari have underperformed in qualifying, they have been unfortunate so far this season.

    Per F1i.com's Chris Medland, the four-time world champion explained:

    It’s not fair to compare to last year. Last year we were in no man’s land, the gap was big to the cars behind and big to the cars behind. I think this year by nature the gaps are a bit smaller. I think we are closer.

    We probably didn’t have smooth races like we did in the beginning last year so things didn’t yet properly come together, which is also our fault. Easy to explain, if we nail it on Saturday more we will have a better race.

    [In Monaco] we have a better race, we’re talking for sure a podium, in Barcelona a win, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the pace of the car, I think it’s there. But we’ve struggled here and there, race, qualifying, to extract it.

    That’s our job so in that regard you can say we haven’t succeeded but equally you need to respect the fact we are fighting teams that had such a big shift or change in the recent past, in terms of team structure, management, whatsoever. I think we started off with a project that together we want to bring back to the top. Now our targets are more ambitious than anybody else’s targets.

    Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble reported team principal Maurizio Arrivabene had suggested Ferrari's hopes for the rest of 2016 will depend on how they can resolve a "problem" related to how the SF16-H car "works with the tyres," particularly in qualifying conditions.

    According to Autosport's Lawrence Barretto, meanwhile, Arrivabene suggested Raikkonen's poor performance in Monaco—where the 2007 world champion retired after crashing at the slowest corner in F1—was a result of his dislike of the track despite the Finn's triumph at the principality in 2005.

    In a separate Motorsport.com article, Noble noted that Arrivabene said Ferrari are considering introducing an upgrade to their V6 turbo power unit at the Canadian Grand Prix after spending three engine-development tokens ahead of May's Russian GP.

Sergio Perez Believes Failure at McLaren Still Harms His Reputation

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    Sergio Perez believes he is "ready" for another chance with a front-running team in F1 but fears his unsuccessful experience at McLaren in 2013 still counts against him in the driver market.

    When Lewis Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes at the end of 2012, Perez, who registered three podium finishes for Sauber that season, was elected as the British driver's replacement.

    However, the Mexican's arrival coincided with McLaren's first winless season since 2006, with Perez losing his seat to a rookie, Kevin Magnussen, at the end of 2013.

    Perez, a former member of Ferrari's young-driver program, has since rebuilt his career at Force India and registered his third podium finish in as many years for the Silverstone, England-based team at the recent Monaco Grand Prix.

    Asked whether his third-place finish at the principality could put him in the shop window, he told Sky Sports' Matt Morlidge:

    Well, I hope not only this one, I hope what I have been doing over the past years.

    I had a really tough time at McLaren and it seems that this is what everyone remembers, my time at McLaren but no one remembers my time at Sauber, my time at Force India.

    All I can do is keep doing my job, keep doing as well as I can, keep improving as a driver. I think in the last years I have improved a lot. I'm a more complete driver in all aspects, qualifying, race, race pace, better experience.

    So if the opportunity ever comes, I will be ready for it and I'm up for it. If not, all I can keep doing is doing my job.

    As noted by Ted Kravitz during Sky Sports' television coverage of the event, Perez's manager, Julian Jakobi—who has previously worked with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost—was present at the Monaco GP, potentially working on a deal to keep the Mexican at Force India for 2017.

    Deputy team principal Bob Fernley suggested a new contract could be on the horizon, telling Morlidge how Perez, who won F1's new Driver of the Day award in Monaco, is "happy where he is."

    Per Motorsport.com's Darshan Chokhani, Fernley revealed Force India were unfortunate not to "have done even better" and got two drivers on the podium in Monte Carlo after pitting Nico Hulkenberg too early.

Red Bull Believe 'Tension' Contributed to Renault Improvements

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    Team principal Christian Horner believes the "tension" between Red Bull and Renault throughout last season has directly led to the French manufacturer's vast improvement in 2016.

    Since winning the last of their four consecutive world championships with Sebastian Vettel in 2013, the relationship between team and engine supplier became increasingly strained as Renault struggled under the V6 turbo regulations.

    When Red Bull were unable to arrange a deal with Mercedes, Ferrari or Honda, the team—who endured their first winless season in seven years in 2015—agreed to run Renault engines under the branding of TAG Heuer for 2016 in an attempt to distance themselves from the Viry-Chatillon, France-based company.

    Since Renault purchased the Enstone, England-based Lotus team at the end of 2015, the manufacturer has displayed an increased commitment to F1 and fast-tracked an engine upgrade to the Monaco Grand Prix, where Daniel Ricciardo secured Red Bull's first pole position in almost three years.

    On the morning of the race, Red Bull confirmed the extension of their partnership with Renault until the end of 2018, with B Team Toro Rosso—who are competing with year-old Ferrari engines in 2016—switching back to Renault power from the beginning of next season.

    Horner, who suggested the "very healthy competitive relationship between the two companies" has returned, feels the pressure exerted by Red Bull in 2015 provoked a positive response at Renault, telling Autosport's Ian Parkes:

    There has been a big restructuring within Viry and the right people are now in the right roles.

    They've got some good consultants, they've hired wisely from some of their competitors, so the change from 12 months ago is a culmination of factors that have come together.

    There was a tension, but I'd like to think in some way that tension focused change, and the change that has taken place has been for the best.

    What we are seeing now is the partnership again working well.

    The most important thing was that there was a reaction, and that reaction was positive.

    So, yes, with the restructuring that has taken place, the consultants that have been brought in, the focus is again there within Viry.

    The guys are doing a very strong job there now, and step by step you can see the progress coming.

    Horner added Red Bull never had "a problem with the guys in the field," who did "a wonderful job" for the team, but that they were unhappy "at a higher level within the technical management."

    In a separate Autosport article, Parkes reported that Horner said Red Bull are working to implement "preventative measures" to guard against a repeat of Ricciardo's slow pit stop in Monaco, which cost the Australian a first victory since 2014.

    He added the mistake was the result of a "culmination of a number factors" and warned against Red Bull engaging in "a finger-pointing exercise."

Daniil Kvyat Looking for 'Help Outside of Red Bull' After Monaco Disappointment

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    Daniil Kvyat has hinted he is likely to part company with Red Bull's F1 operation at the end of this season, admitting he is looking "for a change of situation."

    Kvyat claimed Red Bull's first podium of the season in April's Chinese Grand Prix but was demoted to B Team Toro Rosso following a first-lap meltdown in Russia, where he hit Sebastian Vettel twice in the space of two corners.

    While Max Verstappen, his replacement at Red Bull, registered the four-time world champions' first win since 2014 in Spain, Kvyat was forced to settle for a single point as he adapted to Toro Rosso's STR11.

    The Russian qualified a solid ninth in Monaco, but an electrical issue at the start of the race saw him fall a lap behind before a collision with Renault's Kevin Magnussen—who later suggested Kvyat "lost his mind," per Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde—forced him to retire.

    With Red Bull's junior-driver program notoriously brutal with youngsters who struggle to perform, Kvyat is unlikely to be retained beyond 2016, having become the first driver to be demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso.

    When asked whether he is exploring alternative options for 2017, Kvyat said, per Crash.net's Ollie Barstow:

    Yes. I was on for a fight this weekend, I am giving my absolute best to Toro Rosso and I want to reward this team with a lot of points. But you cannot start in a race where should have been in the race to score a lot of points, it's really frustrating. 

    I want to give everything to this team, but when all of these things start to go wrong you look for a change of the situation.

    I usually try to do things my own way, but if I need someone I will always have someone behind me. But at the moment it's early days, if I need someone I will have help outside of Red Bull. First I want to focus on these races, I want to have strong races with Toro Rosso because it's easier to go forward with good results in your hand.

    I am not leaving it too late, everyone is human and everyone can talk. If we need to talk, we talk. When there is a time to tell something to the media I will let you know. At the moment I don't want to let you know.

    In a separate Crash.net article, Barstow reported that Kvyat's team-mate, Carlos Sainz Jr., said his future is also "uncertain" following Verstappen's promotion to Red Bull.

    The Spaniard followed up a career-best result of sixth in Spain with an eighth-place finish in Monte Carlo, suggesting "opportunities will come" if he keeps doing what he has "done up until now" and reiterating his belief Verstappen's success "is going to be good" for his own career prospects.

Marcus Ericsson to Discuss Monaco GP Crash with Sauber Team-Mate Felipe Nasr

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    Marcus Ericsson has stated he will seek clear-the-air talks with Sauber team-mate Felipe Nasr ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix following the pair's race-ending collision in Monaco.

    As both Saubers pursued Pascal Wehrlein and Romain Grosjean during the Monaco GP, Nasr was asked to swap positions with Ericsson over pit-to-car radio as the team searched for a first points finish of 2016.

    However, the Brazilian refused those instructions. Ericsson eventually took matters into his own hands, making contact with Nasr as he tried to pass him at La Rascasse.

    The collision led to both drivers' retirement, with Ericsson handed a three-place grid penalty before team principal Monisha Kaltenborn told Sauber's official website the behaviour of both was "unacceptable."

    In January, Ericsson told Autosport's Lawrence Barretto how the drivers haven't been "best buddies" since they raced against each other in the GP2 feeder series.

    And while Ericsson has defended his actions in Monte Carlo, the Swede believes it is important he discusses the incident with Nasr, telling Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper:

    Of course it's not good. We need to sit down, me and Felipe, and just clear the air and move onto Montreal. Of course it shouldn't be like that. We need to do it soon.

    I put on the ultrasofts, and I had a bit of a problem to get them to switch on, because I got the blue flag straight away.

    But when I got them to work I think the pace was really strong, and Felipe came in a couple of laps later. I caught him by three to four seconds a lap, and when I got on his gearbox I was asking on the radio, 'What should I do, should I attack?'

    They said, 'No he will swap positions, because you are so much faster at the moment.' And I said, 'OK.'

    Lap-by-lap it went, and I asked, 'What's going on?' They said, 'We're telling him to swap position, he will do it this lap.' And then next lap...

    He just kept on going like that for eight laps I think, with them telling me he will swap position, but he wouldn't do it.

    Then after eight laps I told the team if he's not going to move over then I need to make a move, because there's so much more pace in the car, and they said, 'Go for it.' And then I went for it.

    Per the same source, Ericsson insisted he was right to attempt to overtake Nasr at the tight corner as the Brazilian "was struggling quite a lot in the last sector" and he was "always getting really close there."

    Meanwhile, Kaltenborn has insisted the team must come first but said, per F1i.com's Chris Medland, pressure from the team's sponsors did not play a role in Sauber's decision to prioritise Ericsson over Nasr in Monaco.


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