Jordan with Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda

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Mercedes has rubbished a claim it could quit Formula 1 as a constructor at the end of 2018 by former team owner Eddie Jordan.

The Irishman has become known for his often outlandish sounding predictions, yet he has later gone on to be proven right on several occasions.

After three dominant years and Ferrari now re-emerging as a serious contender as well as Red Bull also trying to catch up, Jordan suggested the German manufacturer's most successful days are behind them.

"Mercedes will probably pull the plug at the end of 2018," he told Germany's Auto Bild.

"I think they will go for the titles this and next year and then the board of directors in Stuttgart will decide to sell the team and stay only as an engine maker.

"I would do the same because Mercedes have won everything and can only get worse from now," the now TV pundit added. "So it's better to go back to their old core business in F1, which is developing and delivering high tech engines.

"Let's put it this way: I had a lengthy talk with [Daimler boss] Dr. Zetsche in Monaco. I told him about my ideas and thoughts and he didn't leave the impression these were wrong. But he obviously didn't go into detail."

His comments also came as he was asked if Sebastian Vettel could make the speculated move to Mercedes for 2018.

"No. He has everything he needs at Ferrari," Jordan replied. "If Vettel suspects this (Mercedes possibly leaving), it really makes no sense for him to leave Ferrari."

Now, however, motorsport boss Toto Wolff has flatly denied any claim Mercedes are considering changing their role in F1 in the future.

"Monaco is a place where people like to party and it seems like somebody did a bit too much of that," the Austrian said.

"The reports are completely baseless and reflect nothing more than the mischievous speculation of one individual.

"Mercedes has firm contracts for its participation in F1 until the end of 2020 - and is currently in discussions about the next competitive cycle with the sport's new owners."

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Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean and team principal Guenther Steiner have criticised the narrow operating window of Pirelli's 2017 Formula 1 tyres.

The Italian supplier moved away from the high-degradation philosophy they have used in designing their rubber since returning to F1 in 2011, partly due to the new cars and wider tyre dimensions for this year but also after criticism their tyres were too influential in races and didn't allow drivers to push.

However, while more durable, this year's tyres are still playing a significant role as teams and drivers struggle to extract the optimum performance. This is particularly true at the front where Ferrari are able to be more competitive against Mercedes, who are having problems, particularly with the ultrasoft tyre.

With Haas being closely associated with Ferrari, it would seem strange for that team to be critical of the tyres, but, so important is solving the mystery of the Pirellis, Grosjean claims it is distracting away from other areas of the car.

“I do believe that not a lot of people are 100 percent sure how to get there,” the Frenchman said initially.

“It’s very tricky. It’s something we need to work on with Pirelli. We need to make it easier, as we’re spending so much time getting the tyres to work. It’s a bit frustrating not being able to work on car balance.

“Ideally, we’d like a wider window, and pretty much more in common between the compounds, so when you change compounds it doesn’t just fall off in the performance,” he added.

That lack of consistency between the different compounds, with some better suited to hotter temperatures and others to cooler, is something Steiner commented on.

“To find it (the temperature window), it’s almost trial and error,” he said. “You go out there and you just find out when you’ve got the grip, then you try to replicate the temperatures. This is now the next problem we’re facing."

Another issue Haas is dealing with is the ongoing brake issues that have blighted the team since last year. This weekend's Canadian Grand Prix is traditionally one of the hardest of the year on brakes and Steiner admitted the American team is a little concerned.

“The biggest thing is the confidence of the driver in the brakes,” he explained, “more confidence means more speed.

“They need to be confident that the brakes always operate the same, at the same point, at the same time. That is the most important thing.

“The team can monitor the wear with telemetry, so if we get in danger we can actually tell the driver over the radio that they’re having a problem.”

Photo via @RenaultSportF1

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Robert Kubica made a long-awaited F1 return at a private Renault test on Tuesday, boosting the hopes of having him on the F1 grid once again.

Kubica, who has mostly competed in rallying since his huge accident back in 2011, has been working hard to make his return to a single seater racing car possible.

The Pole was one of the most promising drivers back then, having won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix for BMW before joining Renault in 2010, and was constantly linked with moves to leading teams.

Although it was at a private, meaningless test, using a 2012 car, all eyes headed to the track as he completed 115 laps of the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia. Afterwards, an emotional Kubica reflected on the bitter/sweet feeling.

"I would like to thank everybody for making this possible, I hope it was a good day for everyone and maybe they saw something of my old, 2010 self," he said.

"For me, it has been an important day from an emotional point of view. It has been a long time away from the paddock and I have been through difficult periods, I kept working hard and a few years ago I felt it was impossible."

Considering what the test meant going forward, he continued: "I have mixed feelings, I am proud with what I achieved, but also it shows what I have lost.

"I don't know what the future will bring, but I know one thing, after working for more than one year to prepare for this, I ran with good pace and consistent in difficult conditions.

"It is not easy after six years, but I knew I could do the job and I can be satisfied.

"I appreciate the opportunity. Renault gave me my first F1 test in 2005, so I appreciate another test this time around."

Renault’s sporting director, Alan Permane, is a long-time member of the Enstone team who worked with Kubica in 2010.

He acknowledged how hard it is to perform such a return and talked about the program that was set for the day mentioning how the Pole performed off the track too.

"It was good to see Robert back in a Formula 1 car," Permane said.

"It was a smooth day. We tried to condense a Grand Prix weekend into one day, which was interesting for him.

"Robert has changed a little, he is mellower and he wasn't as pushy when asking for every detail about the set-up of the car!

"His comments and feedback, however, were like turning the clock back for all of us. It is a tricky thing to jump into an F1 car after six years and it was a great performance from him.

"This was a one-off event for Robert. His time with Renault was cut short so abruptly and we perceived such a nice future with him."

Kubica testing the 2011 Renault just before his major rally crash

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Former BMW driver Robert Kubica will turn his first laps in a Formula 1 car in six years on Tuesday, driving a 2012 Lotus in Valencia.

The Pole, who won his only race in Canada, the venue for this weekend's Grand Prix, nine years ago, saw his promising career ended prematurely prior to the 2011 season after sustaining severe arm injuries in a crash while rallying in Italy.

After recovering, Kubica then focused on rallying with stints in the ERC and WRC but, in the past year, has been looking to return to circuit racing. He competed in a Renault event at Spa-Francorchamps last summer, tested a GP3 and Formula E machine earlier this year and was linked with a seat at the ByKolles team in WEC's LMP1 category until he pulled out prior to the first race of the season at Silverstone.

He has always remained loosely connected with what is now the Renault team - which was Lotus when he competed for them in 2010 - and participated in a Renault Sport Trophy event at Spa-Francorchamps last September.

Since he has tested a GP3 and Formula E car earlier this year and was linked with a seat at the ByKolles team in WEC's LMP1 category until he pulled out prior to the first race of the season at Silverstone.

On Tuesday, he will be running alongside Renault development driver Sergey Sirotkin at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Spain in the chassis that Kimi Raikkonen took to victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix five years ago.

 

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Honda’s power unit problems will weaken McLaren’s performance at the demanding Canadian Grand Prix, according to Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa.

He admitted the Japanese manufacturer will be on the back foot around the power-sensitive layout in Montreal, with a decision on whether to run an upgrade to their power unit waiting until the last minute.

Regardless, Hasegawa insists his team will keep on pushing forward, but that will not be enough for the upcoming race.

“Despite the beautiful nature of the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, this power-hungry, demanding track will not play to our strengths,” he conceded

“With its power-oriented nature, stop and start corners, abrasive surface and long straights, it will no doubt be another challenging race weekend for us.”

“However we will keep pushing forward, no matter how tough the challenge ahead.”

This weekend also sees the return of Fernando Alonso and talking about having the Spaniard back after his participation at the Indy 500, Hasegawa added: “His bid to win in his rookie year came to a disappointing end, but once again Fernando showed what an incredible talent he is.”

“He was a contender for victory throughout the legendary race and drove like a seasoned oval racer. I am looking forward to seeing him after his great adventure.'

Meanwhile, Alonso himself also reflected on his Indy 500 appearance and his return to F1 and also acknowledged the challenge his team will be facing in Canada.

“The Indy 500 was an incredible experience and it’s been amazing to learn a completely different style of driving, on a different circuit layout and with a very different car, but I’m ready to get back to my ‘day job’ and go racing in F1 again,” Alonso said.

“I’ve always enjoyed the Canadian Grand Prix. The circuit is unique in that it’s very demanding on both the car and driver, so it’s a real racer’s track.”

“While I was in Indy I was still keeping up-to-date with the news from Monaco, and Stoffel [Vandoorne] and Jason [Button] both reported positively on the new upgrades and reliability, so I hope we can continue to see a step forward in Canada.

“It’s not going to suit our car as much as the twisty, slower corners of Monaco, but I’m excited to get back in the MCL32, catch up with the guys and girls in the team and get back out on track – not only turning left this time!”

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Remembering Ferrari's difficult 2016 is making this year's ongoing success feel more "special" according to Sebastian Vettel.

The German is well-known for passionate celebrations after victories and his last in Monaco was arguably one of his biggest to date, ending a 16-year baron spell of success for the Italian team in Monte Carlo and seeing his championship lead increase to 25 points.

Two facts many would have thought near-impossible at the end of last year, as the Scuderia finished third in the Constructors' standings and appeared to be falling back main rivals Mercedes and Red Bull with new rules coming that weren't expected to suit the team.

"We got a lot of hard times last year and this year everything seems to be upside down," Vettel was quoted by ESPN, "but the team is the same, the people are the same so it's really clear to them.

"We wanted to have the one-two and we got it. So for the team obviously it means a lot. It's been a long time - you know the numbers better than I do - since Ferrari won and then to get a one-two is just fantastic.

"I think you can see when the guys are singing the Italian anthem. I think it's impossible not to get goosebumps and feel very special standing up there representing them. For me, I think that's what makes racing so special."

That feeling of camaraderie within the team and continuing to repay the team for their work is what Vettel claims is a bigger motivator for him than adding to his four world titles, at least for now.

"It's a long way so I'm not really bothered about that," Vettel said of the championship. "It was more the fact to stand up [on the podium] and see the team. I think obviously, it's a small part that we have at the track but thinking of everyone else back in Maranello in the factory.

"I guess in these small moments you just realize that it's a special group of people. If things go well, we'll work hand in hand, we must make sure we keep the momentum up in the next couple of races - but I think we're just having a great time."

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Mexico's Sergio Perez believes Formula 1 needs more tracks similar to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that will host the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend.

Located in the middle of the St. Lawrence river that flows through downtown Montreal, the venue shares many characteristics associated with a street circuit with walls lining much of the layout and a huge evolution of grip as the weekend progresses due to its lack of usage.

The tight confines also usually make for an unpredictable race, with Safety Car periods almost as common as in Monaco and Singapore, and offer a much different experience for the drivers than they get at most modern venues with their large run-off areas.

“I feel confident about Montreal," Perez commented. It’s a track where I’ve had some good races and I like the challenge of the circuit.

“It’s all about being late on the brakes and aggressive through the chicanes. You have to be precise too with the walls so close to the track.

“I think the sport needs more tracks similar to Montreal where mistakes are punished. These old-school tracks excite the drivers and fans, and usually produce entertaining races.”

For the 27-year-old's Force India team, they will be hoping he can continue his strong record in Canada, including a podium five years ago, to help bounce back from the disappointment of seeing a 17-race points streak end at the last race in Monaco.

“It’s important we get back into our rhythm in Montreal and build on our strong start to the year,” team owner Vijay Mallya said.

“The car is working well and we’ve made progress over the last few races. The confidence throughout the team continues to grow and we approach every race knowing we can fight for points."

As for the second Force India driver, Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman is preparing for his first race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve but feels ready to start meeting his full potential as he settles in.

"I think I’m fully up-to-speed now," said the 20-year-old. "I’m really happy with the team and the way we work together – we’ve already built up a good understanding and they know what I need from the car.

“Although I haven’t driven in Montreal, I know the place already from my visit last year,” he added. “It’s definitely a cool event because everybody in the city supports the race and Canada really loves Formula One. It feels like a big party in the streets, especially on the Saturday night.

“After the bad luck in Monaco, I want to get back to scoring points in Montreal."

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Max Verstappen admits he is trying to "make the best" of Red Bull's current lack of competitiveness.

Before the season, the Dutchman was considered one of the drivers to watch in 2017 following a number of standout performances since joining the Milton Keynes outfit last year, including a wet-weather masterclass in Brazil.

Instead, the 19-year-old has been unable to build on that momentum with Red Bull comfortably the third best of Formula 1's top three teams, some way off the pace of the leading Ferraris and Mercedes'.

In an interview with Crash.net last week, Verstappen conceded it was disappointing that the former world champions had slipped back due to the new rules.

"Well, I never really had many expectations when I started, because then when the car is bad or good… it's not like a shock," he said initially. "Unfortunately, it (the pace) wasn't what many people hoped but that's just how it is, you have to make the best of it I guess."

Though Red Bull continues to point to the TAG Heuer-branded Renault power unit as the main reason for their disappointing performance, there has been a growing acknowledgement that the RB13 chassis itself has fallen well below the standard expected by the team's aerodynamics department.

“We need more grip on the car," Verstappen claimed. "As soon as we have more grip then even if the car drives a bit differently I'll adapt to the situation. I think that's the key.”

Some progress has been made though and in Monaco team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was able to finish on the podium on pure pace. When asked what would constitute a good second half of the season, Max continued: "If we close the gap, and that we're fighting for victories at the end of the season.

"At the moment that's still not the case, we have to focus race-by-race if we can improve on the car."

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Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has effectively conceded his team's run of domination is over, claiming he no longer expects to always see his cars at the front.

Before this season many were questioning whether the new rules would allow their main rivals the opportunity to end the German manufacturer's run of success, that extends back to 2014.

The answer to that has been yes, with Ferrari emerging equal to if not slightly ahead of Mercedes, even if the Brackley-based outfit remains firmly in contention for regular wins.

“This is the reality of the situation now," Wolff claimed. "We have to fight with all that we are worth for every single win, pole position, podium finish and every point. You can no longer expect that when you look at a timesheet the two Mercedes will be right at the top.

"I had an encounter on Sunday afternoon in Monaco with someone I really respect who asked how I felt after the defeat. I told them how much it hurt and their response was ‘that's motor racing’."

Not only has Ferrari's ability to better interpret the 2017 design rules helped the Scuderia become more competitive, but Mercedes admit they have more weaknesses than in the last few years, particularly the tyres.

“We've come into this season with a strong car that has allowed us to win three of the first six races but it has also caused us more complications than we have seen in previous years,” Wolff explained.

"Everybody at the factories is working absolutely flat out to assess the current difficulties we are facing - to define our objectives, work with the data we have and then come up with the right solutions.

“Some of these fixes will be short term, others may take longer.”

But he was confident that a recovery would happen eventually, comparing the situation they face now to the last time they had a race where they were not competitive.

“We've had bruising weekends before and it's about showing resilience and getting up after falling,” Toto said.

“I remember the troubles we had in Singapore in 2015, which hurt badly. We gave ourselves a deadline to address that setback before switching our focus to the next race in Suzuka, which we won.

“We've done exactly the same thing after Monaco - addressing the problems before turning our attention to Montréal. We know that this season is a marathon, not a sprint.”

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Formula 1 commercial director Sean Bratches has expressed his desire for a longer but better planned season.

Following Liberty Media's takeover of the F1 rights earlier this year from long-time owners CVC, everyone was eager to know what changes the new leadership including CEO Chase Carey and managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn would bring.

One of the primary targets set was the adjustment in the calendar in order to benefit from the whole season and to spread the sport around the globe. This started to appear with talks concerning a possible return of the Turkish GP, though that was later squashed, as well as a desire for a second race in America.

But in a recent interview with Reuters, Bratches announced that his team will be looking for the possibility of increasing the number of races per season but acknowledged the fact that this will be a challenge at the organisation level.

“We want to work in partnership with our teams in terms of determining where we go but our view is that we’d like to go above 21”, Bratches said “We want to be a little bit more proactive and go on the offensive terms of the markets where we go.

"As we start identifying an optimal calendar in optimal regions, we can go down and sit with cities and make our case as opposed to what has been a little bit more reactive to bids coming in.”

For the last 10 years or so, the F1 calendar has followed a consistent schedule of early with a batch of races outside Europe starting and ending each season, with the exception of Canada which take places in June.

While the distance between the individual races in the Far East and America may not appear far, however, all teams often travel back and forth to Europe between the fly-away races.

Trying to come up with a schedule that would see teams stay in these regions between races is part of the evaluation, as Bratches added: “We’re trying to align these things better by territory. European races, the American races, the Asian races but it gets difficult in terms of the weather and managing contractual guardrails.

"We are trying to ensure all the participants in this sport have really good businesses and we don’t want to align Grands Prix which will be cannibalistic to one another.”

Another issue has been the desire to avoid clashes between MotoGP and other top motorsport series so it remains unknown if will it be possible to organise more than 21 Grands Prix and if the teams would approve the addition of more races per year.

 

         

 

 

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