Tag: Fernando Alonso

F1: Honda vetoed Alonso’s 2015 Le Mans plans

Honda scuppered Fernando Alonso’s plans to drive for Porsche in the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours “at the last second”, according to German media.

Alonso’s future was the subject of much intrigue last year, with a sabbatical in sports cars mooted as a possibility before his move to McLaren-Honda was confirmed in December. But, according to German website Auto Motor und Sport, the Spaniard retained an interest in racing in Le Mans and hoped to secure a joint deal which would have allowed him to compete alongside his F1 duties, only for Honda to veto the deal at the eleventh hour.

A deal would have seen Alonso drive alongside Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who will combine F1 duties with Le Mans and another World Endurance Championship event, in one of Porche’s three-man teams. The 2015 edition of the famous race takes place on June 13-14, the weekend races in Canada and Austria.

Once Alonso was out of the running Porsche reportedly turned its attentions to German driver Adrian Sutil, who was acrimoniously dropped by Sauber last year. But it appears contractual issues stemming from his time at the Swiss team have prevented him from signing.

Read more at ESPN

F1: Mercedes will target Alonso if Hamilton deal falls through

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Fernando Alonso would be his main target if he cannot agree terms on a new contract with Lewis Hamilton for 2016.

Hamilton’s current contract is set to expire at the end of the year although both sides have expressed a desire to continue together in 2016.  Negotiations were put on hold during 2014 in order to allow Hamilton to concentrate on the championship and Wolff says there is still no rush to sign a deal just yet in 2015.

“There’s no hurry, it will be discussed during the year,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

However, Hamilton is likely to want more from his new contract while Wolff has talked about doing what is best for Mercedes. Asked what would happen if an agreement could not be reached, Wolff admitted Alonso would be the first alternative.

“I am optimistic [of reaching a deal with Hamilton], the priority is to continue with these two drivers. But if it’s not possible, Alonso is the first alternative. Then there is [Valtteri] Bottas”.

Alonso has signed for McLaren for 2015 and Wolff is expecting the Spaniard to up the team’s competitiveness.

“He’s a dangerous threat in any car. If you have in your hands a car that will finish sixth, he will finish in third place.”

Read more at ESPN

F1: Alonso sees podiums as realistic target in 2015

Fernando Alonso says McLaren Honda has to be realistic about its chances next year and believes scoring podiums is a reasonable goal.

Alonso joins McLaren in search of a third world championship after five years at Ferrari without a title, but is under no illusions as to how difficult the first season for McLaren and new engine supplier Honda will be.

“We can never say we will not win the world championship, who knows. But we have to be realistic, knowing that the deficit on the chassis side was important I think for McLaren this year, and the power unit is something we need to put in place and get experience [with]. Hopefully we can get everything right from the first race but you never know. The 2014 cars show us how complex is this F1.

“But we will see. I think a reasonable level of competitiveness will be to fight for podiums, hopefully to win races in 2015, that will be a good sign for our future. We will see how things develop, because if we can manage to have a good winter, have a little bit of luck… we saw even this year the big advantage Mercedes had, and we didn’t know if [Daniel] Ricciardo could fight for the championship until the end. So I think we have to put us in a good position, a competitive position, and after that it is up to Jenson and me as well to construct something.”

Alonso returns to McLaren seven years after he fell out with team boss Ron Dennis in dramatic fashion and left the under a cloud. He said his motivation to come back was fuelled by a desire to set things straight.

“All those years I had only one feeling remaining to do: I was happy with everything I had done apart from 2007. I didn’t achieve, didn’t deliver, the best of myself. So now seven years later, more mature, you learn things and understand things probably you didn’t at 25 years old, and now I arrive to finish this job I started in 2007. This was the first priority to come back.

“Ron and I have spoken a lot during the year, we have been together for some dinners and I want to say some hotel rooms but it sounds very bad! And you know, we both understand ultimately that we both are extremely competitive, we love motor racing – so much that sometimes we didn’t agree. But as I said, when you are 25 you think differently.”

Read more at ESPN

F1: McLaren-Honda announces Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button for 2015

McLaren-Honda announce its new driver line-up for 2015: Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Kevin Magnussen will remain an important part of the team, as test and reserve driver.

All three men will play crucial roles in re-establishing the ascendancy of one of global sport’s most iconic unions, for McLaren and Honda have already formed one of the most dominant partnerships in motorsport history: Honda broke new ground in the 1980s by creating a turbocharged engine that was unparalleled in both its output and its efficiency, and, between 1988 and 1992, McLaren-Honda won eight world championships and 44 grands prix, and took 53 pole positions and set 30 fastest laps, all in just 80 grands prix.

In 1988, the partnership created arguably the single most successful Formula 1 car of all time: the all-conquering McLaren-Honda MP4/4, which was driven to victory by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in an amazing 15 of the season’s 16 grands prix.

The lure presented by those same goals has once again brought the legendary Japanese corporation back to the pinnacle of global motor racing; and, again, that company, Honda, is developing its revolutionary new turbocharged engine at its all-new purpose-built state-of-the-art motorsport facility in Sakura, Japan.

It is against that backdrop that McLaren and Honda are now committing to rebuilding afresh the strongest possible partnership in Formula 1.

The aforementioned Ayrton Senna, in the opinion of many the greatest driver in the history of our sport, won 30 of the 44 grands prix that McLaren and Honda annexed together between 1988 and 1992. Ayrton once said: “We do not need myths. We need examples to be followed – examples of courage, determination and hope. We need to believe it is possible to win, and it is our duty to pursue that belief.”

Fernando Alonso said:

“I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference.

“I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship.

“I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me.

“Over the past year I have received several offers, some of them really tempting, given the current performance of some of the teams that showed interest. But, more than a year ago, McLaren-Honda contacted me and asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership – a partnership that dominated the Formula 1 scene for so long.

Jenson Button said:

“I am extremely excited to be embarking on my 16th year in Formula 1 and my sixth season for McLaren.

“Like Fernando, I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together, and I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team.

“I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but, for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren-Honda team-mate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy. The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since.

“Being a part of new-look McLaren-Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go.

“I am also very glad that Kevin will remain part of the team. He is a very quick driver and a really nice guy.

Read more at mclaren.com

F1: Jenson Button secures McLaren seat alongside Fernando Alonso

Jenson Button is to partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren next season.

The team are to announce their driver line-up at a news conference at their factory in Surrey on Thursday.

But BBC Sport has learned they have decided to retain Button after weeks of leaning towards Kevin Magnussen.

Button, the 34-year-old 2009 world champion, will continue into a 16th season and has his wish granted to test himself against the man widely regarded as the best in F1.

McLaren signed Alonso some weeks ago, but had been vacillating over the identity of his team-mate.

Chairman Ron Dennis had been keen to retain Magnussen, 22, but the continuing delays over making a decision have tipped the balance back in favour of Button.

The two were evenly matched for pure pace in 2014, with Button out-qualifying the novice 10-9 in 19 races.

The Englishman scored more than twice as many points as Dane Magnussen over the season.

McLaren had intended to retain Magnussen, who finished second on his F1 debut in this year’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, on the basis that the team’s data had suggested he was fractionally quicker and had youth and promise on his side.

But Button’s strong finish to the season, his experience and perhaps unrest at boardroom level over Dennis’s position has influenced the team to go the other way.

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Magnussen, who ended the season on 55 points compared to Button’s tally of 126, may be retained as reserve driver for 2015.

McLaren, as well as representatives of both Button and Magnussen, were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

The farrago over the identity of the team’s second driver has detracted from the impact of McLaren’s signing of double world champion Alonso.

This is quite a coup considering his standing in the sport and the fact McLaren have succeeded in luring him away from Ferrari.

Ferrari had their least successful season for 21 years in 2014 but still finished ahead of McLaren, largely thanks to the efforts of Alonso.

Read more at BBC Sport

Le Mans: Alonso won’t be able to combine F1 and Le Mans in 2015

There are some contractual complications with McLaren and Honda on Fernando’s way to Le Mans.

Fernando Alonso is unlikely to be able to squeeze the Le Mans 24 Hours into his 2015 schedule, despite trying hard to convince McLaren to allow him to do the race.

Alonso attended this year’s 24 Hours and the recent Bahrain WEC event, and encouraged by friend Mark Webber he has been actively trying to find a seat – with Porsche his main target. The former World Champion was attracted by the idea of being the first F1 superstar in decades to try to fit the race into his regular schedule.

Nico Hulkenberg has been able to agree such an arrangement with Force India, but unsurprisingly for Alonso there are added contractual complications with McLaren and Honda.

While the Japanese manufacturer is perhaps less concerned about its star driver appearing for Porsche, as opposed to a direct market rival such as Toyota, Nissan or Audi, McLaren’s own status as a supercar maker has complicated matters. There are also questions over clashes of partners such as Pirelli and Michelin.

Read more at motorsport.com

Le Mans: Alonso to join Hulkenberg at Le Mans – reports

Fernando Alonso could follow Nico Hulkenberg’s lead in splitting his F1 duties with a sensational debut at the fabled Le Mans 24 hours next year.

Last week, the sports car prototype manufacturer Porsche announced it has signed Force India’s Hulkenberg to race not only at Le Mans next June but also the Spa six hours.

It was said Hulkenberg would drive a third three-driver Porsche prototype in 2015. His teammates for the Le Mans entry were not announced.

This year, Porsche returned to prototype Le Mans competition with Mark Webber leading one of the two 919 Hybrid cars.

Now, Italy’s Autosprint is reporting that with Alonso now close to having his full-time F1 seat with McLaren finally announced, it could be followed by a shock round of extra news.

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The publication cited sources close to the German marque as saying Spaniard Alonso, who famously officially started this year’s edition of the Le Mans 24 hours, could also sign up with Porsche for 2015.

“Porsche would not be an alternative to McLaren-Honda for Alonso,” agreed Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo, “but a complement.”

The report said Alonso would join Hulkenberg in the third Porsche entry, along with another unknown driver.

“Despite their friendship,” El Mundo Deportivo added, “Fernando would not race in the same car as Mark Webber.”

The report said the biggest stumbling block to a Le Mans deal for Alonso is the fact that McLaren is a direct sports car-making rival of Porsche.

Read more at motorsport.com

F1: Hamilton beats Rosberg to fastest time in first practice

Lewis Hamilton got his hunt for a second title off to a positive start during the first practice session for this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton held a 0.133s advantage over Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg, who he leads by 17 points in the drivers’ standings. A first or second place finish will secure the title for Hamilton, and with Mercedes 1.7s clear of the rest of the field he should be confident of his chances even if Rosberg picks up the pace over the rest of the weekend.

Williams are expected to be Mercedes’ closest rivals, but Valtteri Bottas hit trouble 27 minutes into the session when part of his engine cover came off the car. The large chunk of debris flew off the car on the back straight, forcing Bottas to return to the pits with just eight laps to his name and the eighth fastest time. Team-mate Felipe Massa was down in 13th position with only seven laps after he returned to the pits not long after Bottas with an issue with his car.

Fernando Alonso was third fastest as he got his final weekend with Ferrari underway, just over 0.1s quicker than the man who will replace him Sebastian Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo was 0.03s off his Red Bull team-mate in fifth place ahead of the two junior Red Bull drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rossos.

Such was the gap between the Mercedes and the rest of the field, Jenson Button found time to tweet about it as he waited for a problem to be sorted on his car in the garage.

Read more at ESPN

F1: Ferrari announce Alonso departure and Vettel on three-year deal

Ferrari has finally confirmed Fernando Alonso will not race at the team next season after the two parties decided to split by “common consent”. The news means Ferrari have been able to announce Sebastian Vettel on a three-year deal.

Alonso’s departure has been an open secret since the Japanese Grand Prix and speculated on long before, but it was not until Thursday at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi that the team confirmed the news. Alonso is expected to move to McLaren next year, but was understood to be in negotiations with Ferrari over how to cancel his contract.

Since joining the team five years ago, Alonso has failed to win a title despite coming close in 2010 and 2012. He said it had been a tough decision to leave but he has always had Ferrari’s interests at heart.

“Today is not an easy one for me, because even if I always look to the future with great enthusiasm and determination, at the end of this season my journey as a Ferrari driver will come to an end,” Alonso said. “It was a difficult decision to take, but a carefully considered one and from start to finish, my love for Ferrari was a prime consideration.

“I have always been lucky enough to make my own decisions about my future and I have that possibility now too. I must thank the team for that, as it understood my position. I leave Scuderia Ferrari after five years, during which I reached my very best level professionally, tackling major challenges that pushed me to find new limits.

“I also proved to be a true team-player, putting the interests of the Scuderia before my own. When I had to take important decisions about my future, I did so with Ferrari in my heart, driven by my love for the team. I am very proud of what we have achieved together.

“Thanks to the efforts of the men and women of Maranello, on three occasions we came second in the Formula One World Championship, two of them fighting for the title right up to and including the final race, running in a championship winning position for many laps.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, these five years produced some of the best moments of my career and I also feel that, in leaving the team, it is family rather than friends I am leaving behind. Now I look to the future with great enthusiasm, knowing that part of my heart will always belong to the Prancing Horse. I want to thank each and everyone of the team for the trust they showed in me.”

The team confirmed the decision had been made by “common consent” and Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci thanked Alonso for his time at the team.

“In the Scuderia Ferrari roll of honour of great drivers, Fernando Alonso will always occupy a special place,” he said. “We offer him our heartfelt thanks for what has been an extraordinary adventure with the Scuderia, when in the past five years, he twice came so close to winning the world championship. I am sure that a great driver like Fernando will always hold the Prancing Horse dear to his heart and I also expect the Ferrari fans will continue to hold him in high regard in his future endeavours.”

Read more at ESPN

F1: Russia: Lewis Hamilton sets pace in practice

Lewis Hamilton was in superlative form to set the pace in second practice at the Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest, 0.912 seconds adrift.

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen was second fastest, 0.864secs off Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third, a further 0.01secs adrift of the Dane.

The weekend is taking place in the shadow of the accident suffered by Marussia driver Jules Bianchi in Japan.

The Frenchman’s team have decided to run only one car in honour of Bianchi, who is in hospital in Japan in a critical condition after suffering severe head injuries in the crash on a very wet Suzuka track on Sunday.

World champion Sebastian Vettel said: “Does getting back in the car help us after what’s happened? It does and it doesn’t. It helps to get your head elsewhere and focus on the day job – looking after the best possible set-up and comparing the tyres and learning the new track; it keeps you occupied.

“But on the other hand it’s only been a couple of days, so it’s quite fresh and difficult.”

The single Marussia car of Max Chilton was 20th fastest, between the two cars of back-of-the-grid rivals Caterham, for whom Marcus Ericsson was 19th and Kamui Kobayashi 21st.

Williams’s Valtteri Bottas was fifth, split from team-mate Felipe Massa in seventh by McLaren’s Jenson Button.

At the front, Hamilton comes to Russia on the back of three straight wins, including in Japan last weekend, when he became the first Mercedes driver to make a pass stick on his rival in a wheel-to-wheel battle all season.

Rosberg has offered no excuses for his performance, saying that Hamilton coped better with the loose rear end in difficult conditions in Japan.

But he added: “I believe and know that if I do a good job here, I’ll win on Sunday. I’m not in the past. I’m here.”

Rosberg appeared to have an edge on Hamilton initially in practice – he was quickest in the first session and was quicker by 0.242secs in the early part of the session, when the drivers were running on the harder ‘medium’ tyre.

Then, Hamilton was struggling with his inside wheel locking as he braked into Turn 13, at the end of the long back straight.

But Hamilton pulled off some stunning performances on the runs on the faster ‘soft’ tyre, putting in two laps more than 0.6secs quicker than Rosberg.

Rosberg ran wide at one corner and was complaining that he was not happy with the car.

And on the longer runs at the end of the session, when the teams were simulating race performance, Hamilton appeared to be in a league of his own, about 0.2-0.3secs ahead of Rosberg, who looked to be slightly slower than Bottas.

Behind Massa on headline times, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was eighth ahead of the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and the Russian’s team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne was 10th.

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was one second off Alonso, who unusually set his fastest time at the end of a multi-lap run on the soft tyre.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was 12th, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who stopped with seven minutes of the session remaining with a power unit failure.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the team were slower than they expected to be.

“We appear to be out of the window we normally are in,” Horner said. “We’d expect to be up with McLaren, Williams and Ferrari. The drivers are not saying there’s anything particularly wrong with the car, but it doesn’t seem quite quick enough.”

The Sochi track carries a strong resemblance to the now defunct Valencia street circuit and Hamilton and Rosberg were among the many drivers who ran wide, exploring the limits at the plethora of right-handed corners.

Turn 13 – into which drivers have to brake while going through a left-hand kink at the end of the long back straights – was proving particularly challenging, with a number of drivers running wide.

Read more on BBC Sport