Ricciardo admits talks with Ferrari before McLaren deal

McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo says he held talks with Ferrari regarding a move to the Italian outfit for 2021 but admitted not “diving too deep” into the discussions.

Ricciardo’s transfer from Renault to McLaren next season was announced earlier this month, the Aussie replacing Carlos Sainz who will fill Sebastian Vettel’s seat at Ferrari.

Ricciardo was often cited as Vettel’s successor at the Scuderia even before the news of the German driver’s departure from Maranello. And the 30-year-old — who had been linked to Ferrari in the past — confirmed that the most recent speculation was not wide of the mark.

“There have been discussions already from a few years back, and that continued all the way through to now,” Ricciardo said in an interview with CNN.

“I won’t deny that, but obviously it’s never really come to fruition.

“I’ve never really chose to dive too deep into it. Everyone says it would be a good fit, obviously, with my name and all the background stuff, but I try not to get emotionally caught up in any kind of situation.”

Ricciardo believes that Ferrari’s decision to recruit Sainz was a logical one.

“I see how Carlos is a fit for the team. So I don’t really look at it like ‘why not me?'” he said.

“Carlos had a very strong 2019. He’s a bit of hot property right now, and I guess it’s a good fit for where they are at.”

Regarding his decision to not extend his two-year contract with Renault, Riccardo said the choice had not boiled down to a specific issue or aspect associated with the French outfit, insisting there is no “black and white answer”.

“There wasn’t any moment, which was like a light bulb and said: ‘Yes, that’s what I need to do,” explained the Aussie.

“Equally, there wasn’t something I saw in McLaren, which created that or there wasn’t something in Renault, which created the moment of ‘I have to move on.’

“The discussions with McLaren go back to even before 2018, and I guess continued over time.

“Obviously it’s not an overnight decision. I guess to compare as well the two [teams], I don’t think that’s fair.”

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Tost impressed by Albon 'even before start of 2019'

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says that he spotted the potential of Alexander Albon even before the start of the 2019 season.

Albon was the last driver signed up for last season’s campaign, after it took protracted negotiations to free him from an existing Formula E contract. He started his rookie season with the least F1 experience of anyone on the grid.

But Tost says that the London-born Thai driver’s talent was immediately apparent to him, from the moment he took to the track in pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

“When he started testing it was his first time in a Formula 1 car and he did a really good test in Barcelona, where he showed his potential,” Tost told RACER magazine.

“I said in Barcelona that he could become the surprise of the year of the young drivers,” he added. “I said from the beginning onwards during the testing in Barcelona that he really showed a good performance.

“Alex performed fantastically from the very beginning onwards,” Tost continued. “He came to Australia – which is not an easy race – and didn’t score points. But in the second race in Bahrain he finished in ninth position and scored two points.

“This showed his potential,” Tost said, explaining that from this point the 23-year-old was firmly on the radar of the Red Bull squad.

He added that he had been part of the discussion throughout with team principal Christian Horner and motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko about Albon’s future.

“We are always talking together – Helmut, Christian and myself – discussing different drivers,” he confirmed.

Alexander Albon (THA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14. 19.02.2019

Albon was subsequently promoted to the senior squad over the summer break, with Gasly being swapped back to the junior team. It proved to be the best call for both drivers, with Gasly quickly rediscovering his form at Toro Rosso and Albon acquitting himself well enough at Red Bull to retain his plum race seat for 2020.

Tost said he hoped that Albon would now be given the time to improve himself against his highly rated team mate Max Verstappen, who expects to be contending for the world championship in 2020.

“If you then have a driver alongside you like Max Verstappen, it’s on one hand very positive,” commented Tost. “You can see where you gain time and where you lose time.

“But on the other hand, if he’s so fast it could be quite frustrating sometimes if you cannot match him.

“Alex should just concentrate on himself,” Tost advised. “He should learn, and then he will do it his way.

“He’s in his second season, and I always say that it takes three seasons minimum until a driver understands Formula 1,.”

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Alonso unsure he'll return to Dakar's trails

Fernando Alonso isn’t sure he’ll renew his Dakar experience in the future but if he does, the Spaniard will target an outright win.

Alonso broadened his already vast motorsport horizons with a two-week desert trip to Saudi Arabia, an experience filled with the unavoidable setbacks and complications associated with the grueling world of rally-raid competition.

Despite the difficulties that popped up left and right on the Dakar’s trails – including a double-roll down a dune earlier this week, Alonso and Toyota Gazoo Racing co-driver Marc Coma finished the event in a respectable 13th position.

The pair failed to win a stage outright but finished runner-up on Day 8 and managed to snap at the heels of the front-runners when spared any setbacks.

“I have felt competitive almost every day,” said Alonso at Friday’s finish at Qiddiya.

“On this last stage, we had a puncture, we caught Yazeed [Al Rajhi] and we still finished fourth, so I think we would have been in with a shot at winning the stage.”

Overall, the two-time F1 world champion and double Le Mans winner was encouraged by his performance. Yet Alonso has yet to decide if he’ll give the Dakar a second shot.

“If I decide to enter the Dakar again, it would be with high expectations,” added the 38-year-old. “I don’t want to think about it now. I’m happy with how it went.

“Logically, after this first experience, and having been competitive, if I race in the future, I’ll try to do it to win, to add an important victory to my career.

“But there’s time for that [decision]. I would have to have a more precise and detailed preparation and have the best equipment.

“If you like racing, spending holidays in a car is a good option. We’ll see.”

Alonso’s next big sporting chapter will take him back to Indiana in May where he’ll attempt to qualify for his second Indy 500, likely driving an Andretti Autosport entry although the endeavor has yet to be confirmed.

Thereafter, Alonso will have the entire summer to ponder his future, and perhaps even a return to F1!

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Tata Communications: We achieved what we set out to do in F1

Tata Communications has ended a partnership with Formula 1 after eight years working together on the sport’s digital transformation, the Indian-owned company said.

Formula 1 confirmed they were no longer official partners, without further comment.

Amit Sinha Roy, vice president of marketing, said the deal ended on Dec. 31 and Tata wanted “to explore other platforms that will allow us to showcase the full power of our digital services to our key customers.”

“Our eight-year F1 journey, spanning 150+ races, was all about driving innovation in the sport,” he added in a statement to Reuters. “As we had achieved what we set out to do, we feel it’s the right time for us to conclude this marketing partnership.”

Roy said Tata, who had been the sport’s official connectivity partner, remained committed to customer relationships with broadcasters such as Sky and Star Sports television.

They would also continue working “behind the scenes for now” with other F1 partners and customers. Those included the Williams team and world champions Mercedes last season.

Formula 1 launched a television subscription streaming service in 2018, targeting an estimated 500 million fans worldwide as part of a digital transformation.

Tata had arrived in the sport under former F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who was ousted by the sport’s new owners Liberty Media in January 2017.


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Ferrari enrolls Arthur Leclerc into its Driver Academy!

Arthur Leclerc may soon follow in the footsteps of his illustrious brother following Ferrari’s decision to sign the 18-year-old hopeful to its prestigious driver academy.

Charles Leclerc’s younger brother took part last season in the German F4 championship, scoring seven podiums and a win in the competitive feeder series.

Arthur’s enrollment into the Ferrari Driver Academy is accompanied by a campaign in the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship with Prema Powerteam, the outfit for which Charles Leclerc won the 2017 European Formula 2 Championship.

At Prema, Leclerc will race alongside fellow FDA member, Brazilian Gianluca Petecof.

“I am really happy to announce that I will drive in Formula Regional with one of the best teams in junior series,” said Arthur Leclerc.

“I did my very first test in single seaters with Prema two years ago and I have always dreamed to race with them.

“This great opportunity comes with another big chance for me, as I am proud to announce that I am joining the Ferrari Driver Academy.

“I am very grateful for the support and the trust given to me. I cannot wait to be back in the racing seat.”

Prema team principal Angelo Rosin says Leclerc is “an outstanding addition” to the team.

“We are absolutely looking forward to having him in our talent pool,” Rosin said.

“In the early stages of his career he made the most out his chances to race, so we are confident about the potential for 2020 especially given how we saw him perform as a contender.

“He is an outstanding addition to the team, and our side we are determined to work as hard as we can to make the difference for our drivers.”

In addition to Arthur Leclerc Ferrari has also added 16-year-old hopeful Dino Beganovic he showed his class in karting, with two Swedish titles already to his name and a second place in the WSK Euro Series in 2019.

The Swede will be making his single-seater debut, with Formula 4 as the natural first step. He too will come under the wing of the Prema Powerteam.

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Hamilton 'the machine' fires warning shot to rivals

Lewis Hamilton is buffing up his mind and body for 2020, the six-time world champion warning his rivals to expect to be battling “a machine” this year.

After completing his most successful campaign to date in 2019, with 11 wins a record 413 points, Hamilton will head off into the 2020 season determined to equal the seven-title tally of F1 legend Michael Schumacher.

The Mercedes driver and 84-time Grand Prix winner fired a warning shot to his rivals on Instagram with a message that reflects his steely and single-minded determination.

“I am at peace when I’m here, can focus and build my mind and body so that I can come back year on year,” wrote Hamilton, who turned 35 last week.

“I’m going to be a machine this year, on another level than ever before! Spread love and positivity everywhere we go”.

As driven as he intends to be to capture his seventh crown, Hamilton will have a few worthy rivals to contend with starting, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who is set on giving the Briton a run for his money all season long.

But further up the pitlane, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen are equally determined to challenge the Briton with all the bravery of their youth and talent, while a resolute Sebastian Vettel will also buckle down to try and defeat his arch rival in what could be the German’s swansong season in the sport.

However, “the machine” is ready. Bring it on!

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Nissany: The goal is to race in Israel in 2021

There may be more than meets the eye with regards to Williams’ signing little known Israeli driver Roy Nissany, as he hinted this may be the first step towards a Grand Prix in the country.

At the post-grand prix test in Abu Dhabi last year, the unknown 25-year-old Nissany was suddenly at the wheel of Williams’ 2019 car.

He was quickly ridiculed, not only because he was several seconds off the pace of Williams’ regular drivers, but because his then 42-year-old father Chanoch was even slower when he did a Friday practice for Minardi back in 2005.

For the 2020 test driver announcement, which will involve Nissany doing several Friday practice sessions, Claire Williams travelled to Roy’s native Tel Aviv.

He has strong Israeli backing, including by the new Tour de France team Israel Start-Up Nation.

“I feel like we are all putting the Israeli flag on the map,” Nissany said.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said it could just be the first step towards a grand prix in Israel, “The goal is to race in Israel in 2021. It would be a dream to be able to drive there, with 350 million people admiring my country on TV.

“For me it has been a long journey – almost 20 years. Formula 1 was never a dream but a goal. Williams is a wonderful place to learn and I am very grateful to be offered this opportunity,” he said.

Israel Start-Up Nation was founded by Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, who said: “The fast-track plan is for Roy to be an actual F1 driver as early as 2021. Of course, he has a few hurdles to accomplish before he can be selected to be one of the two drivers.”


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Alonso 'will evaluate F1 return' for 2021 – but not to Ferrari!

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso says he will “evaluate” a possible return to Grand Prix racing later this year, but not until completing his latest attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Alonso – who is currently competing for the first time in the Dakar Rally – says that F1 is just one of several options that he will be looking into.

“In the summer I will have to make a decision, that’s for sure,” he told Spanish radio broadcaster Copa’s El Partidazo de Cope programme this week.

“I will evaluate F1, I could also return to the WEC since the hypercars will arrive. Or I could do an entire championship in IndyCar,” he added.

“I will make my evaluations, and the teams will do the same: if there is a common interest I will certainly think about it.”

Since exiting McLaren at the end of 2018, Alonso has been part of a second consecutive Le Mans-winning entry, and also went on to clinch the overall 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota.

However his attempt to win last year’s Indy 500 – and with it, become only the second driver in history to attain the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ – came unstuck when he failed to qualify for the 33-car grid.

But despite his headline-grabbling exploits in various championships around the world, Alonso admitted that he was still first and foremost a Formula 1 driver at heart.

“Inside I still feel like an F1 driver,” he confirmed. “It’s a championship that I like and in which I know I can give my best.

“F1 is the top of all categories, but it also has its disadvantages: it requires total dedication, and I’ve already had 18 years of career done that way.

“I have to decide whether I’m really interested in doing another two to three years with that load of work,” he added.

2012 German GP: Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates his pole position

Whichever way he decides, Alonso appears to have ruled one thing out: whatever happens, he doesn’t see himself returning to Ferrari, for whom he drove for five seasons between 2010 and 2014.

“I haven’t talked to Ferrari for 2021,” the 38-year-old Spaniard confirmed. “I think the adventure with Ferrari has been good, but I don’t think it’s time to talk about a return.

“I think they bet on the future by betting everything with Charles Leclerc,” he commented.

“For 2021 I will first have to see who will be competitive, and perhaps Ferrari will not be among the favorites. We’ll see.”

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Kubica not using 'cheap excuses' to explain 2019 flop

Robert Kubica says he won’t offer any ‘cheap excuses’ for why his 2019 Formula 1 comeback proved to be such a crushing disappointment.

The 35-year-old Pole was out of the sport for eight seasons after suffering life-changing injuries from an off-season rallying accident at the start of 2011.

He was eventually able to make his F1 return with Williams in 2019, but the overall poor performance of the car meant that he was firmly stuck at the back of the grid for the entire campaign.

While he did pick up one championship point with an opportunistic top ten finish in Germany, his performances generally compared poorly with his rookie team mate George Russell.

But Kubica didn’t want to blame the injuries to his right arm for how the campaign turned out, even though they had meant that he was having to drive “70 per cent left-handed” all season.

“Sometimes we want to make people believe that Formula 1 is simple, but it is not,” he told Motorsport.com. “There are a lot of factors which have a big influence on the final result.

“One of the factors which is not a big influence is actually my limitations in high-speed [sections],” he stated, adding that the car’s handling issues had been a far bigger factor overall.

“When you lack the grip, it is normal that you lose more in more challenging areas,” he pointed out. “Also you lose more when you have two, three corners in a row than only one corner or a straight line.

“This is something where I’m sure my limitations are not influencing my driving, on this type of area.”

He also dismissed suggestions that his problems had been linked to the tricky 2019 tyre compounds.

“I see that as a cheap excuse for an unsuccessful season,” Kubica insisted. “I think I am clever enough and good enough to understand what I should do with the tyres.

“Of course, ultimately it is the driver who is driving the car. But we have exactly the same targets and exactly the same things operationally regarding the tyres,” he said. “[However] it’s not a driver which is choosing which way to go and how the tyres should operate, it’s still teamwork.

©BMWMotorsport

“I have my opinions on many areas where I definitely could have done better,” he continued. “There were occasions where I could perform and I did perform well, but they were hidden with some external factors.

“With the circumstances we were in, it was extremely important for me to start the season with a good consistency so I could build up my comeback on this,” he continued. “Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.”

Kubica also suggested that a lack of support and feddback from the team had been an issue, contributing to his decision in September to announce he was quitting Williams at the end of the season.

“There were occasions where I didn’t hear any answer, or I had no idea why we were so underperforming from day to day,” he complained. “This is something which is worse, because in order to improve you need to understand the reasons.

“There’s no point of having a medicine for something which isn’t causing your illness,” he pointed out.

Having made his departure from Williams, Kubica will now serve as reserve driver at Alfa Romeo in support of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi in 2020. He’s also taken part in DTM rookie testing with BMW, but is yet to be confirmed with a seat in the championship.

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Leclerc skydiving stunt did not go down well with Ferrari

Charles Leclerc admits that his recent leap of faith from 13,000 feet led to a reprimand from Ferrari as he had not asked his employer permission for the stunt.

With the F1 season done and dusted over a month ago in Abu Dhabi, Leclerc sought to sustain his adrenalin level, indulging in some high-altitude thrill by skydiving for the very first time.

The Monegasque undertook his initiation in Dubai and jumped in tandem with an instructor, an experience that elated the two-time Grand Prix winner but failed to impress his employer, whose permission he had “forgotten” to seek.

“You normally should do, [and] I do,” explained Leclerc last weekend at the Autosport International Show during a Q&A with fans.

“I didn’t for skydiving, because I just told myself that in case it will go wrong I will not be here to be told off!”

“So, yeah, I just went for it, and then they were a little bit upset. At the end, I won’t do it a second time.

“It was amazing. But it was just to do it once.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

1st skydive today. What an amazing experience, jumping alone is next on the list 😬

A post shared by CHARLES LECLERC (@charles_leclerc) on Dec 2, 2019 at 6:28am PST

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