Horner and Ricciardo confident of upsetting miserable Mercedes

Sport360 staff 17:41 25/08/2014
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In with a chance: Team Red Bull celebrate Daniel Ricciardo's (l) victory at the Belgian GP.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the in-fighting at Mercedes is handing Daniel Ricciardo a shot at this season's Formula One world title.

For the third time this year Ricciardo took full advantage of an on-track Mercedes issue to claim the chequered flag at the Belgian Grand Prix.

With seven races remaining and 200 points available, including the highly-controversial double points in the final race in Abu Dhabi, the ever-smiling Australian now has a clear chance of championship glory. Ricciardo is currently 64 points behind Nico Rosberg and 35 adrift of Lewis Hamilton after the duo's collision at Spa which resulted in the latter retiring for the third time this season.

"We've benefited from a get-together between the Mercedes drivers, so it is good to be keeping them honest," said Horner.

"Spa was a track where we didn't expect to be competitive, yet we managed to win, as in Montreal – two of the most unlikely tracks we would have picked pre-season.

"All we can do is focus on ourselves and go race by race, but it is remarkable Daniel has won only one less race than Rosberg (three compared to four) this year.

"He is doing a phenomenal job at the moment and deserved his victory.

"Everything we see of him is incredibly calm, in control and he is obviously marking himself out as a clear championship contender."

Ricciardo also vowed to keep on fighting while the title was mathematically a possibility. 

"It is great," said the beaming Australian. "We are really motivated right now and it has been a really good day for us on a track where we didn't expect to get maximum points.

"There are still a few races to go. Definitely, while it is still mathematically possible we will keep fighting. To come and steal some points where we were not supposed to is nice.

"What is important now to look ahead is to capitalise on the circuits we can be strong on – if we can take maximum points at a couple of those it is never over. "I see good things ahead if we can collect maximum points around here.

"It gives us a bit more hope for the circuits that are going to come later in the season – Singapore and Suzuka, just a couple to mention."


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Mercedes boss Wolff confirms Rosberg will pay for Hamilton crash

Sport360 staff 15:05 25/08/2014
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Mercedes collision: Nico Rosberg will pay the price for colliding into Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Nico Rosberg will face serious consequences, but his comments were misinterpreted and he did not deliberately crash into Lewis Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

Speaking after a heated meeting to review Sunday's stormy race won by Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Wolff explained that Rosberg, who was booed on the podium, had wanted to make a point by not giving way when the pair collided on lap two.  

But that, he said, did not mean he had intended to crash with Hamilton puncturing the Briton's left rear tyre and wrecking his race.

Hamilton retired with four laps remaining after battling at the back of the field and later said Rosberg had told him he had hit him deliberately.

"It looked quite clear to me, but we just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose," said Hamilton. "He said he did it on purpose… He said he could have avoided it.

"He said 'I did it to prove a point'. He, basically, said 'I did it to prove a point' and you don't have to just rely on me — go and ask Toto [Wolff], Paddy [Lowe] and all those guys who are not happy with him as well."

Rosberg, with a broken front wing, survived and finished second to open up a 29-points lead over Hamilton in the title race with seven races remaining.

"Today we've seen the limits of the slap on the wrist," said Wolff. "The slap on the wrist is not enough.

"If Lewis has said that it's going to be a slap on the wrist, and that there's going to be no consequence, then he's not aware of what consequences we can implement."

Watch Rosberg's collision with Hamilton

Wolff declined to elaborate, but said that Mercedes could do "a lot" and added that the team would re-introduce strict team orders to avoid any repeat incidents that gift victories to their rivals.

"What we have to do is see it as a matter of principle and make sure it doesn't happen again. We had the conversation at the beginning of the season. It was an absolute no-go to crash into each other.

"We've had mega-exciting races where they were fighting fair and square with great excitement for all of us. And at that stage, they were on top of the situation and we were on top of the situation.

"Now it's come to a point where it's getting very tight, and probably we need to tackle that with more intensity to make sure we stay within the boundaries we've set at the beginning of the season.

"It would be too early to go into detail because the devil lies in the detail. We're all fans and we owe it to ourselves and everybody out there to let them race.

"But that philosophy has resulted in Mercedes losing valuable points – and we don't want to end up in Abu Dhabi, with a season where we lost the championship, be it constructors' or drivers'.

"There is a lot at stake, and if you don't manage this properly now it could end up at that point.

"It's one thing enjoying great races and letting them fight with each other, but if you look like a fool at the end of the season then you haven't won anything."

Rosberg later insisted that he was not to blame.

"We had the pace to win, but the incident cost us a top result," he said. "So I'm really disappointed because for the team it was a bad day.

"As drivers we are here to entertain and show the fans a good time, so our duels are always on the limit. I regret that Lewis and myself touched, but I see it as a racing incident – just as the stewards did…"

Wolff added further clarification, saying: "Nico felt he needed to hold his line. He needed to make a point, and for Lewis, it was clearly not him who needed to be aware of Nico.

"Rosberg didn't give in. He thought it was for Lewis to leave him space, and that Lewis didn't leave him space. So they agreed to disagree in a very heated discussion, but it wasn't deliberately crashing."

Making clear that the team saw Rosberg as culpable, he added: "It doesn't change the scenario at all because the incident, as I see it, is not acceptable for us.

"What we saw was that Nico was not prepared to take the exit and that caused the collision. That is not something we want to happen. We had a collision that could have been avoided, a second-lap collision. It was Nico who attacked – and he shouldn't have done it."

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F1 analysis: The 2015 driver money-go-round has begun

Sarah Holt 06:55 25/08/2014
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More than just a driver: As well as competing, Lotterer will share his knowledge with Caterham having earned his place on the F1 grid after excelling in endurance racing.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be sick of the sight of each other after another bruising clash at the Belgian Grand Prix.

How long the “Frenemies” can live with each other, on and off the track, remains to be seen.

But elsewhere in the paddock the first stirs of movement on Formula One’s driver merry-go-round had already begun.

Some teams spent the mid-season break fast-forwarding the delicate deals of the driver market in time for the race at Spa.

Andre Lotterer made his F1 debut, Alexander Rossi almost did and Red Bull Racing unveiled their newest young gun, teenager Max Verstappen.

Motorsport fans might well have done a double take as Lotterer arrived in Spa. Had the seasoned endurance specialist turned up a month too late for the circuit’s famous 24-hour race?

The German three-time Le Mans 24-hour winner, who last tested an F1 car for Jaguar 12 years ago, was poised to make his F1 debut for the Caterham team at the ripe age of 32.

Kamui Kobayashi, whose return to F1 had been partly crowd-funded by fans of the Japanese driver, was suddenly out. Lotterer was in.

Meanwhile, Marussia announced before the race weekend that American Rossi would make his GP debut in place of Max Chilton.

But a second missive followed 24 hours later. Rossi was gone, Chilton was back in.

So what was the driver hokey cokey about?

The two teams who joined the grid in 2010 are simply doing everything they can to survive in the dollar-draining world of F1.

Developing an F1 car capable of a top-10 finish – which brings a greater share of F1’s prize-money – is a very expensive business.

This season’s extensive rule changes have pushed the bill even higher with the new engine package alone said to cost $14 million (Dh51.4m) per car.

Chilton eased himself back into one of Marussia’s race seats for the Belgian GP after “contractual issues” were resolved or, as the paddock rumour mill would have it, money swiftly changed hands.

A windfall of cash will have also sweetened the deal for Lotterer’s debut with Caterham. It also helps that he is on close terms with Colin Kolles, the former F1 team boss now advising Caterham.

It has been a tumultuous year for the team in green.

Sold by Malaysian airline tycoon Tony Fernandes to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors in July, cash-strapped Catherham have since axed a number of staff.

Lotterer, however, promised not only to bring finances but some much-needed driving nous to the team, who are languishing in a lessthan- lucrative 11th place in the constructor standings and are yet to win a point despite five years of trying.

The German, who grew up in Belgium, came through the gruelling demands of Le Mans to win with Audi for a third time in June. As well as driving in the World Endurance Championship, he also competes in single-seater racing in Japan.

In short, Lotterer has the potential to help Caterham understand how to improve the performance of their car.

Caterham are yet to confirm who will be driving alongside Ericsson, and his secured finances, at the next race in Italy. Rumours are circulating that the seat is on offer to the highest bidder.

With money doing so much talking in F1 these days, sometimes it seems idealistic to view F1 as a pedestal for dazzling drivers – like a certain Lewis Hamilton – who make it on talent alone.

But perhaps, there may still be some hope for fans looking for new racing heroes.

On the eve of the Belgium GP Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, announced they had snapped up talented teen Verstappen for 2015.

The son of former F1 racer Jos Verstappen and a go-karting Mum, the kid has speed in his genes.

Rising through the junior ranks, with eight Formula Three victories this season, he has been watched closely by Red Bull and Mercedes.

At just 17 – when some of us mere mortals are still struggling to reverse park – the Dutch driver will become the youngest racer in the history of F1.

There is chatter among experts that Verstappen is the real deal.

But for everyone who finds a place in F1’s muscular game of musical chairs, there is always a loser.

Jean-Eric Vergne – the man Verstappen is replacing – could be consigned to F1’s scrap heap at just 24.

Once considered among the sports best up-and-comers, the Frenchman may now need to go looking for finances if he is to stop himself falling off the merry-goround for good.

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