Will Mercedes flick Lewis for Sebastian in 2016?

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel

Lewis Hamilton, winner of five grands prix so far in 2014, is contracted to Mercedes until the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season. Already, Mercedes has plans to replace him with Sebastian Vettel from 2016 and beyond. That’s what Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko is telling German media anyway.

Remember, Nico Rosberg is safely tucked away at Mercedes for some time, so they only have one seat up for grabs. Providing perfect fodder for the likes of us here at AUSmotive both Hamilton and Vettel have been kind enough to comment on the speculation. So let’s go with Lewis first.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said in the build up to this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. “Another German driver? I’m not sure if that’s something Mercedes would like.

“At the moment I’m here until the end of next year, so it’s not going to be any time soon. But Mercedes are the best, so everyone is going to want to drive a Mercedes.

“I’ve shown an interest in sitting down and talking. We haven’t sat down yet, but the team know I’d like to push to continue, and they have made clear they would like to do the same.”

In words, at least, Lewis does seem quite relaxed and is displaying a mature attitude.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the future, but I can’t particularly see myself anywhere else,” he added. “If they happen to want someone else then I’m not going to whinge about it. There are places for everyone.”

And now for Sebastian’s thoughts.

“I think any offer is to be considered, but nothing has changed,” he said. “So I still don’t talk about these things. I don’t know which sources Helmut has or doesn’t have. But they seem to vary.”

Coincidentally, Vettel’s contract with Red Bull ends in 2015 as well, so he will need to secure himself a drive for 2016.

[Source: Autosport]

New Honda NSX needs improved cooling

Honda NSX

The motoring world fell in love with the Honda NSX concept when it first debuted in early 2012. Mostly because it looks so damn good, but also because we know how much respect Honda has for the NSX badge. They won’t cock this up.

We also knew there would be a long development process, which may take a little bit longer after this NSX prototype was burnt to a crisp during a test session at the Nürburgring this week.

Thankfully neither of the occupants were hurt or injured in the incident which is believed to have started in the engine bay.

Acura/Honda spokeswoman Jessica Fini commented on the mishap:

Acura can confirm that an NSX prototype experienced a fire today while testing at the Nurburgring. We make safety a top priority, and fortunately no injuries occurred. We are investigating the cause but as the vehicle is still under development, we’re not in a position to share details. While an incident like this is unfortunate, the development of the NSX continues its progress toward its highly anticipated launch.

The car is powered by a twin turbo V6 with additional electric power being to both the front and rear wheels, which should be good for 500hp or more. A 7-speed dual clutch transmission will ensure that power is delivered efficiently as well.

It looks like a supercar and burns like a supercar. And we reckon this new NSX will be a bloody good supercar!

You can see video of the NSX in its pre-barbecue state after the break.

[Source: AutoGuide]

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Bernie says Azerbaijan in 2016, New Jersey maybe

Red Bull Racing visits New York City

Another new grand prix looks set to join the F1 calendar with Bernie Ecclestone confirming to Forbes.com he has done a deal for a race to be hosted in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in 2016.

At the behest of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull there is a 20-race limit on the F1 season and in order to make space for Azerbaijan that limit may need to be increased or an existing grand prix will have to get scrapped.

There’s 19 races on the calendar this year and the return of the Mexico City as a grand prix host will take us back to 20 races in 2015. There was supposed to be 20 races in the current season too, but the second failure of the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey left the door open for Mexico.

And on the New Jersey race Eccelstone has had this to say: “Somebody said to me the other day that New Jersey seem to have got their act together now and that they have got the money and are all in good shape. Whether or not that is true I don’t know. The soonest it could come on the calendar is 2016.”

[Source: Forbes | Pic: Red Bull/Getty Images]

Mexican Grand Prix set to join 2015 F1 calendar

Nigel Mansell wins 1992 Mexican Grand Prix

After an absence of over 20 years the Mexican Grand Prix looks set to return next year. Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed he has signed a deal with race organisers and is subject to final negotiations, which may include finding a place on the ever bulging F1 calendar.

“I’m happy to announce we’ve concluded an agreement to have a race in 2015,” said Ecclestone. “Don’t miss this race!”

Tavo Hellmund, who helped establish the United States Grand Prix, has worked on the deal with Ecclestone and says it was a goal of his to bring F1 back to Mexico.

“Ever since Bernie and I began working on a race at Austin, it’s been a dream of mine to help Formula 1 return to Mexico,” said Hellmund. “This announcement has therefore been years in the making, but we’ve gradually been able to assemble all the right pieces. I’m absolutely delighted.”

The last Mexican Grand Prix was held in 1992 and was won by Nigel Mansell on the way to his only world drivers’ championship.

[Source: Formula1.com | Pic: Williams/LAT]

“Morally proper” to postpone 2014 Russian GP

Sochi Autodrom, July 2014

The official Sochi Autodrom website tells us there’s only 80 days until the Russian Grand Prix. Yet, one week on from the MH17 disaster, calls for the race to be cancelled are gathering momentum.

In addition to MH17 British-Russia relations are on high alert after a public inquiry into the death of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko was announced. Critics from the political and academic spheres are now speaking out.

David Davis, a Conservative MP and former Foreign Office minister is one outspoken critic calling for the Russian Grand Prix to be postponed.

“If Russia continues as they have been doing, then the grand prix is one of many things that they should be denied,” Davis declared. “The morally proper thing to do is put the race on hold.

“F1 already had a problem in the past with Bahrain. Whilst I’m not particularly in favour of cancelling sports events at the drop of a hat, I think that Formula 1 should reflect the global outrage. It would be an important and appropriate response to cancel the race.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, weighed in saying: “Public opinion all over the world will find it difficult to accept Mr Putin taking all the plaudits for this grand prix in Russia and, no doubt, presenting the prizes.”

Further, Dr Andrew Foxall, from the Russian Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, a British-based think tank, added: “Formula 1 is not, and never has been, an organisation known for morality. There are a host of reasons why this race should not go ahead.”

Previously, and unsurprisingly, Bernie Ecclestone has stated he has no problems with the race going ahead.

“We shouldn’t speculate as to what could happen,” Ecclestone told Adam Cooper. “We will honour our contract. Mr Putin personally has been very supportive and very helpful, and we will do the same.”

[Source: The Telegraph | Pic: via twitter]

Auto Union to rule the world?

Auto Union logo

Suddenly last week’s story that the Volkswagen Group could rebrand itself as Auto Union now makes a lot more sense. Automotive News reports Volkswagen is considering a takeover of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). It’s a move that’s been largely interpreted as means for Ferdinand Piech to achieve his aim of making the Volkswagen Group the world’s largest automaker.

If the Volkswagen Group did add FCA to its portfolio of automotive brands that would take it well beyond the reach of Toyota and General Motors as the highest selling car maker on the planet. Volkswagen Group could claim 14 million annual sales, around four million ahead of Toyota and GM.

German publication Manager Magazin first broke the news that representatives from the Volkswagen Group and FCA boards have met to discuss Volkswagen’s buy-in, although both companies deny any discussions have taken place. It’s thought that Piech has approached the Agnelli-Elkann family to acquire its 30% stake in FCA.

Previously, Volkswagen sources have coveted the Alfa Romeo brand. Under the watch of Sergio Marchionne and through the FCA agreement Alfa is enjoying a resurgence. On the back of the 4C the brand has recently relaunched in the United States after an absence of almost 20 years.

Other major brands under the Fiat-Chrysler umbrella include Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep, Lancia and Maserati. The addition of Jeep to the Volkswagen Group would help it quench the world’s insatiable thirst for SUVs.

Clearly, there’s a long way to go for this deal to take place, if it ever will. It’s expected the 30% share in FCA would be valued between US$5–6 billion. As it happens Volkswagen Group has a lazy US$24–25 billion in cash reserves up its sleeve.

If this VW-Fiat-Chrysler deal goes ahead then rebranding the entire group as Auto Union makes absolute sense. The Auto Union changes may still go ahead irrespective of the FCA deal. Taking a big picture view, though, Auto Union becoming known as the world’s largest car maker sits perfectly with Piech’s grand plan.

[Source: Automotive News | Pic: Raoul Pop]

2015 Porsche 911 GT3 RS: No turbo for you?!

2015 Porsche 911 GT3 RS spied at the Nurburgring

A prototype 911 GT3 RS has been spied at the Nürburgring in recent days and judging by the fearsome sound of the car it is not turbocharged. There’s been speculation that Porsche would boost the 991-based RS in order to achieve the 500hp+ target pencilled in for the 3.8 litre flat six.

Porsche has also stated that the gap between the regular 911 GT3 and the RS model will be larger than it has been in the past. You can see signs of that already with the big side air intakes and other body work modifications. Just look at the size of that rear wing for starters!

Those side intakes would normally indicate a turbo, as in the 911 Turbo, but there’s no mistaking the rawness of the note coming from that test car. It sounds superb.

While this test car does sound like it has a PDK fitted there is talk, or hope at least, that the RS will be available with a traditional manual gearbox. Let’s hope Porsche comes good on that front, even if the longer term future of the manual ‘box is inevitably going to be a lost cause.

Of course, Porsche has had a minor hiccup with the engine in the GT3 and that has pushed back the launch of the GT3 RS. As far as we know there’s still no official launch date in mind for the RS. If the Frankfurt Motor Show in September is too soon, then Detroit in January will probably mark the car’s debut. It’s not too far away.

[Source: Bridge to Gantry]

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2014 German Grand Prix in pictures

2014 German Grand Prix

Winning your home grand prix would be pretty cool. We’ve seen it twice in two races now thanks to Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Here’s your chance to relive Nico’s German Grand Prix win.

We’re only sorry we don’t have photos of Daniil Kvyat’s car on fire or Adrian Sutil doing donuts on the main straight while spinning out of the race.

As for choosing to keep the Safety Car in the garage and forcing the marshals to scamper out to retrieve Sutil’s abandoned car; that wouldn’t have had anything to do with protecting the German driver’s lead in the German Grand Prix would it?

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1,077 pieces of pure joy

Mini Cooper Lego

We think Lego and cars is a match made in heaven. Which is why we were so excited last month when we brought word of the coolest Lego product money can buy. And now, as its official 1 August release draws closer, MINI is getting in on the act with an official press statement and a set of images, which you can see below.

More images can be seen on Flickr. There’s a few videos after the break as well.

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Is Dan, is good!

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing

One of the highlights from the 2014 German Grand Prix was the battle between Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso. Two-time world champion Alonso eventually won that battle for fifth place, but he was very impressed with the driving abilities of our Daniel.

“Daniel is a surprise from Australia,” Alonso told Sky Sports F1 after the race. “I think he’s doing unbelievable; I think he’s seven-three [in qualifying] in the first ten races with Sebastian [Vettel], so it’s something we probably didn’t suspect.

“He’s driving fantastically and today he was battling very smart—always taking the slipstream of me after I pass him and braking very late, attacking very late and never missing a corner.

“He was very, very smart, very respectful with the rules and it was a great fight.”

Alonso later added he was managing fuel towards the end of the race and was lucky not to concede P4 back to Daniel on the last lap.

“For the last stint I was saving fuel but I was battling with Ricciardo,” he said. “So for some laps you have to decide to give up the position and cross the line or fight with Ricciardo and be on the limit to cross the line.

“I decide to fight with Ricciardo, be in the position and then I will try to manage the fuel as good as I can.

“On the last lap, I had to save fuel massively and I was in eighth gear all lap and it was lucky that there was not 100 metres more.”

[Source: Sky Sports F1 | Pic: Red Bull/Getty Images]

2014 German GP: Felipe Massa crash

Felipe Massa crashes out at the 2014 German Grand Prix

Amateur footage uploaded to YouTube gives us another look at the opening lap crash from the 2014 German Grand Prix involving Felipe Massa and Kevin Magnussen. You can also see Daniel Ricciardo forced way off track to avoid the incident.

The race stewards investigated the crash and decided neither Massa nor Magnussen were responsible and no further action was taken. Of course, the drivers don’t always see it like that.

“Luckily I am OK but I am not happy,” said Felipe Massa. “I was in front going into the corner, and so to have another race ended by another driver is not easy. I am doing my best, the team are doing their best, and we just aren’t getting the chances we need.

“Going into the first corner I was near to Valtteri but had to back off to stop an accident, sadly some others didn’t do the same. I am obviously very disappointed.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen defended himself saying he was unable to avoid contact with Massa.

“A real pity: I think I could’ve had a decent race if I hadn’t had the accident at Turn One,” Magnussen said. “I need to see a replay of the accident, but I feel that, if I’d had somewhere to go, then there wouldn’t have been contact with Felipe.

“I did my best to try and avoid the accident, but there wasn’t much else I could do.”

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2014 German GP: Post-race press conference

2014 German Grand Prix

The champagne from Nico Rosberg’s fourth win for the year will complement his recent wedding celebrations nicely. You can read what he has to say about that and the German Grand Prix after the break, along with the thoughts of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

Before you do, though, here’s the post-race thoughts from a very enthusiastic and positive Daniel Ricciardo who was very happy with his day after that near miss at the first corner.

“That was awesome fun, one of my most enjoyable races I’ve had,” Daniel said. “I mean, not on the first lap, obviously, that was just the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t as worse off as Massa and hopefully he is okay.

“I was on the outside and the collision happened, I had to avoid it and went pretty far down the field, I don’t know exactly how far back. From then on I just got on to the radio and said let’s make an amazing recovery and make ourselves proud today. And I think we did that, we fought hard and we didn’t leave anything on the table.

“These are the moments and battles that I personally thrive off and enjoy. Fernando is known to be a tough racer and I thought who better to have a good fight with. I was on the Primes and he was on fresher Options and I gave it the best fight I could and, well.., nearly!”

What a guy!

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Nico Rosberg wins 2014 German GP

2014 German Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg has capped of a great few days by winning his home grand prix for the first time. He did it in a canter, too, with a 20.7 second margin over Valtteri Bottas in P2. Lewis Hamilton couldn’t quite make it a 1-2 for Mercedes, but should be happy with third after starting the race from P20.

Since the disappointment of his gearbox failure in British Grand Prix Rosberg has signed a lucrative contract extension, got married and seen his country win the World Cup. Not a bad run of results and don’t forget he’s also extended his world championship lead over Hamilton to boot.

Hamilton’s charge through the field might have yielded an even better result had he not suffered front wing damage after making his way past former teammate Jenson Button. In the end he didn’t quite have enough pace to get past Bottas.

Sebastian Vettel finished fourth, ahead of a desperately close late stoush between Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo. Alonso crossed the line less than a tenth ahead of Ricciardo, having overtaken him just a few laps prior.

Nico Hulkenberg continued his run of points-winning results in every race so far this year with P7. Jenson Button led home his junior teammate Kevin Magnussen. While Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10.

Another spectacular first lap incident ended the race of Felipe Massa after he clipped Magnussen at the first corner, sending both cars off track. Massa’s car flipped before ending on its wheels and the Brazilian emerged unscathed.

Ricciardo had made a clean start off the line but was forced off track to avoid the Massa-Magnussen incident and rejoined the track well down in P15. Clearly, Daniel could have done better than P6 today; he displayed flashes of brilliance at times while charging through the field and especially late when defending against a much quicker Alonso.

Other incidents attracting attention was a fire to Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso and a late race spin at the last corner from Adrian Sutil, which left his Sauber stricken on the main straight. It took some time to move his car off the track and you have to wonder why a Safety Car was not deployed to allow marshalls increased safety while dealing with the car.

We back up again next week for the Hungarian Grand Prix and let’s hope that race offers some of the excitement and close racing we saw at Hockenheim.

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Jeff Zwart, a 700hp 911 and Pikes Peak

Jeff Zwart at 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

We all know the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car is a pretty good wepon of choice on a track. And now that Pikes Peak is tarmac all the way to the summit it’s probably a pretty good choice for that epic climb too.

But what if you bolt on some turbos, strengthen the engine internals and wind the boost up to 700hp? Thankfully Pikes Peak specialiast Jeff Zwart was kind enough to take on that investigative task for our benefit and these two videos are the result.

Sadly for Jeff he lost a fuel pump just after his ascent began. He drove on manfully—just listen the cacophony of whooshes—and came oh so close to breaking the magic 10-minute barrier. No doubt Jeff will back in 2015 and will cross off that bucket list item then.

[Thanks to John for the tip]

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