‘Vettel is using Red Bull as a comfort blanket’

David Coulthard believes Sebastian Vettel has turned to his former team Red Bull for comfort as his 2018 season struggles continue.

The Ferrari driver is 70 points behind title leader Lewis Hamilton with just a maximum of 75 points left to play for and his performance at the United States Grand Prix was blighted by more mistakes.

A red flag infringement in FP1 led to a three-place grid drop at the Circuit of The Americas, and P5 soon became P15 after another first-lap spin.

It forced Vettel into yet another recovery drive to P4 and Coulthard, who remains an ambassador for Red Bull, feels he is seeing the German back with his former team more frequently as the title has continued to slip away.

Watch: Bad start for Hamilton, even worse for Vettel

“He’s a four time World Champion, he’s made two mistakes in two corners,” Coulthard said via Channel 4. “One mistake you can say you’re finding where the car is…

“He says he’s tired, when you’re tired you go for your comfort blanket.

“I’ve seen him around Red Bull more often in the last few races than at any other time that he’s been at Ferrari.

“So he’s not knuckling down with his comfort blanket at Ferrari.

“To me it looks like he’s not only tired of the recovery drives, he’s just not as happy within the team as he was at Red Bull.”

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Raikkonen ‘very happy’ to be leaving Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen has said his long-awaited victory in Ferrari colours changes nothing about his feelings on his Formula 1 future.

The Finn has provided one parting gift with his first win in 2044 days at the United States Grand Prix, four races before he heads back to where it all began with Sauber next year.

Raikkonen said he was happy to prove some people wrong and that he still has what it takes to win, but still thinks his Sauber switch is coming at the right time in his career.

“Obviously we had a pretty rough two races and I’m proving people certain things,” Raikkonen said.

“I might be getting older but it’s not too bad still. Maybe I’m OK to be [here] a few years more.”

Read more: 12 things that happened between Raikkonen’s last F1 wins

Asked if that win was proof Ferrari should have kept him instead of replacing him with Charles Leclerc for 2019, he added: “No. For sure I didn’t mean on that side.

“I think people don’t understand I’m actually very happy where I’m going.

“I had my time with Ferrari, I won the championship with them. I won many races with them and for me, as a driver, I want different challenges, I want different things and I’m actually very happy to go there.

“It’s roughly 40 minutes from my home. For sure my family will be happy, I’m happy to be with my family. I think it’s probably the best thing.

“I wasn’t really disappointed with the decision at any point. The only thing that I was interested in was to know what was going to happen and that’s the only thing.

“The rest, I’ve been long enough in F1 to know that things… it doesn’t matter if you have contracts or not, things happen for different reasons but I think the end result is that I’m very excited about it.

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‘Vettel incidents are no longer a concidence’

Formula 1 technical boss, Ross Brawn, has said Sebastian Vettel is “a bit out of sorts” and his errors are “no longer a coincidence”.

Both rivals and pundits alike believe Vettel threw away another glorious opportunity at the United States Grand Prix, given Ferrari’s returning pace and Kimi Raikkonen’s long-awaited win.

Not for the first time this season, Vettel spun on the opening lap after a wheel-to-wheel battle and his P4 finish in Austin means only a disaster will prevent Lewis Hamilton from lifting a fifth World Championship this weekend in Mexico.

Brawn feels that something is amiss with Vettel and and it is down to Ferrari to help him get back to his very best.

“On Friday there was a small one (mistake), when he failed to slow sufficiently for red flags, and he paid the price with a three-place penalty,” said Brawn.

“Then, in the race, he yet again collided with a Red Bull, this time Ricciardo’s, and once again Vettel came off worst.

“It was another lost opportunity to close the gap in the title fight, especially when we saw what Raikkonen did with the same car.

“I certainly don’t want to put Vettel in the dock, but these incidents can no longer be seen as coincidence.

“Rather they would seem to indicate that Sebastian is a bit out of sorts at the moment.

“Now, any hope of bringing the drivers’ title back to Maranello is dwindling and the time has come to do the maths.

“Their most important task is to work out how to help Vettel make the most of his massive talent.”

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Mercedes forced to change wheel rim design

Mercedes felt forced into changing their new wheel rim designs ahead of the United States Grand Prix due to a looming Ferrari complaint.

The FIA did give the Silver Arrows the all-clear after following up on an enquiry made by Ferrari prior to the race weekend at the Circuit of The Americas.

Ferrari initially wanted clarificiation on the rules regarding wheel hubs and what constitutes a legal design.

The Scuderia felt that Mercedes’ design, which featured internal holes to help with tyre cooling, was very similar to the concept Red Bull had banned back in 2012.

Mercedes’ new design, first introduced at the Belgium Grand Prix, has been shortlisted as one of the reasons why the Silver Arrows have been able gain a competitive edge on their rivals.

Autosport have now reported that Mercedes decided to tweak the design before the race in Austin, Texas to try and appease Ferrari and stop them from lodging a post-race protest.

With the FIA still happy with Mercedes’ design and Ferrari still not pleased with the governing body’s initial ruling, further clarification on the wheel rim issue is expected to develop during the build-up to this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, who had to settle for P3 at the United States Grand Prix after starting on pole position, suggested that his tyres may have limited his chances of success.

“We were forced into a two-stop race for certain things we had that weren’t ideal with the car,” Hamilton said.

“We didn’t know that was going to be the case when we got into the race. If we hadn’t had the problem we’ve had, tyre usage wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big an issue.”

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Verstappen: Honda better off for McLaren split

Max Verstappen believes Honda are progressing now that “they are doing their own thing” and not following orders from McLaren.

Red Bull and the Japanese engine manufacturer will be joining forces next season and, as they continue to work with the junior team, Toro Rosso, Verstappen is continuing to like what he sees.

“They (Honda) have been able to do their own thing and build the engine to their liking,” Verstappen told Speed Week.

“They no longer have to deal with the team they were dealing with.

“Also, some new people have come on board, the management is new, and the whole thing looks very good.

“Of course we’ll have to see how it develops, but it’s going in the right direction and I’m happy about that.

Watch: Verstappen raced out of his boots in Austin

Verstappen also singled Honda’s qualifying pace after they recently introduced their Spec-3 engine in Japan.

“I’m very excited about next year, because Honda is obviously very fast in qualifying now,” he added.

“Of course we want to finish this year as well as possible, but the whole team is already looking forward to the next season. Everyone is really motivated.

“The data coming from the test stands is very promising.”

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Hartley feels he is getting the better of Gasly

Brendon Hartley believes he is doing what has been asked of him if he wants to keep his Toro Rosso seat for 2019.

Hartley has been told by Toro Rosso that, in order to stay with the Red Bull junior team for a second year, he must start beating his team-mate Pierre Gasly, whose performances this season have led to a move to Red Bull next year.

Starting from the back of the grid in Austin, due to engine and gearbox penalties, the New Zealander battled valiantly to P11 before the disqualifications of Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen boosted him into P9 – his best finish of the season.

With Gasly finishing P12, Hartley says that his USA result is a continuation of his good form against his team-mate.

“It was a good one. I feel like I’ve been performing well in the last events.” Hartley said.

“Obviously every weekend I am answering questions about my future or reading about it or read in the press I need to beat my teammate.

“But in fact Singapore, I was ahead in the race before I had team orders and I was boxed again.

“I was ahead in Russia before the car broke, I was ahead in qualifying in Suzuka and I was ahead again today.

“So, let’s see what happens.”

Hartley then added to Motorsport.com: “It’s obviously been annoying to answer questions about my future all the time, I’ve said it a few times already.

“I feel like I’m doing the job and deserve to stay here.”

Hartley has three more races to continue to prove his worth, but Toro Rosso are actively pursuing Alexander Albon and are currently in negotiations with Nissan to release him from his Formula E contract.

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Brown: Vandoorne was not ‘aggressive’ enough

McLaren boss Zak Brown believes that Stoffel Vandoorne has not shown enough aggression and character in his time with the team.

The Belgian’s two year stint with McLaren will come to an end after the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

He came into Formula 1 on the back of winning the GP2 Series, and was expected to go on to great things.

However, Vandoorne has been at McLaren for their worst period in the sport, so it is fair to say it has not been all his fault.

Team boss Zak Brown believes that he maybe felt in the shadow of experienced team-mate Fernando Alonso.

“Was he too corporate? No, I wouldn’t say that,” Brown said.

“He’s a very, very nice guy, but maybe he should have been a bit more aggressive with us.

“When Fernando doesn’t like something about the car, he does not hesitate to raise his voice.

“Maybe for Stoffel it was more difficult for him to do that in this environment.”

Alonso, himself, believes that his Belgian team-mate is one of the most talented drivers of his generation.

The two-time World Champion also hopes that Vandoorne can reap the rewards from his move to Formula E for the 2018/19 season, which starts in December.

“Stoffel was unlucky to be with McLaren at this time, with the cars he had at his disposal in these two years,” Alonso admitted.

“I think it’s a good thing for him to change.

“He won in every category he ever did, but Formula 1 is the only discipline in motor racing where talent is not enough to overcome the weaknesses of the car.”

Vandoorne has struggled this year, having not scored since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix back in April.

He only has eight points in the Championship, compared to Alonso’s 50.

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Horner: Ricciardo issues are Renault’s fault

Christian Horner has said it is “ironic” that Renault are the ones letting Daniel Ricciardo down ahead of his 2019 move.

Ricciardo is currently on a 12-race podium drought and notched up his seventh race retirement of the 2018 season at the United States Grand Prix.

The Aussie let his frustation show by “putting a hole in the wall” and Horner is surprised that Ricciardo’s new team are continuing to let the reliability issues happen.

“You can’t blame him, the frustration that is in him,” Horner said.

“What’s ironic is it’s always on his car. It was the other way round last year with Max but as Renault’s premier driver I think you wouldn’t expect these issues to be happening.

“From a team point of view, all we want to do is finish the year on a high with him and have a chance to celebrate the time that he has been with us.

“It’s just unfortunate that these things keep happening.”

Daniel Ricciardo: Heat on Renault move

Ricciardo, meanwhile, is targeting one more podium with Red Bull before he leaves the team at the end of the season.

“A lot of times this year there have been things out of my control but I can only keep trying,” Ricciardo said.

“The biggest shame is that I only have a handful of races left with Red Bull and I want to have more highs than we’ve had.

“I want to be able to celebrate with the team at least one more time and be on the podium to enjoy that feeling, but we’re running out of races which is pretty tough to take at the moment.”

The Aussie has also been frozen out of post-season testing as Red Bull will not allow him to test their car or free him up so he can get to grips with the Renault car.

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Giovinazzi gets another chance to impress

Sauber have given reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi a chance to impress with an FP1 outing lined up at the German Grand Prix.

Ferrari pushed to have both academy products – Charles Leclerc and Giovinazzi – in full-time driver roles with Sauber ahead of the 2018 season but the latter missed out with Marcus Ericsson keeping hold of his seat.

Giovinazzi had to settle for a reserve and development role for this season, but will finally get a chance to rack up some miles in the 2018 car.

The Italian deputised for two races at Sauber in 2017 whilst then driver Pascal Wehrlein recovered from an injury sustained at the Race of Champions.

However, calls for him to remain on the grid became quieter after a string of costly crashes.

Yet, there is still hope of Giovinazzi joining the 2019 grid should Leclerc be promoted to the Ferrari seat for next season.

Giovinazzi will be replacing Ericcson at Hockenheim, the Swede returning to the wheel on Friday afternoon for FP2.

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De Ferran opens up on McLaren issues

New McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran has given his first impressions on what needs to change in order to make the Woking team great again.

De Ferran’s arrival at McLaren was part of a staff overhaul with racing director Eric Boullier resigning and replaced by a three-man organisation at the top of the chain of command.

De Ferran began his new role on July and, after his first race weekend in the hotseat at the British Grand Prix, identified the areas where McLaren need to improve quickly.

“I think Zak [Brown] actually outlined the whole thing really well,” De Ferran told The Checkered Flag.

“We need to communicate more and bring some more clarity into the organisation, and I don’t disagree there at all.

“For the little time I’ve been in there the one thing is clear to me is that the place is full of very bright, very motivated people, they care a lot about what they do and care a lot about the success of the company.

“I’m just getting myself integrated and trying to pull everyone in the right direction.”

The future of superstar driver Fernando Alonso is also set to rumble on over the summer, but De Ferran would not be drawn on whether he will sign a contract extension into the 2019 season or move on to pastures new.

“Fernando I think is one of the best drivers in history, not only in Formula 1 but globally,” added De Ferran.

“Working with him has been a massive pleasure, he’s a great guy to work with as well and everyone up and down the team not only love him but has a huge amount of respect for him so he’s definitely a major asset for the team.”

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