F1 Raceweek: Vettel controversy rumble on, 2017 calendar in focus
The Formula One drivers’ championship could be decided at the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.
One more victory for Nico Rosberg would see him dethrone Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but the Briton is in form after winning each of the last two events in the United States and Mexico to close the gap to 19 points.
Since Hamilton’s triumph at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez two weeks ago, developments away from the track have continued, and we take a look at what the main talking points have been.
VETTEL AND RED BULL REMAIN AT LOGGERHEADS
An expletive-laden rant from Sebastian Vettel during the Mexican Grand Prix threatened to land the Ferrari driver, furious that Max Verstappen refused to surrender third place after going off track to defend his position, in hot water.
Part of the German’s foul-mouthed tirade over team radio was aimed at race director Charlie Whiting, who he later sought out to apologise to in a move that helped him escape punishment.
However, Daniel Ricciardo defended his Red Bull team-mate by claiming Vettel’s struggles this season are getting the better of him.
“I definitely sense Seb is more frustrated this year,” Ricciardo was quoted as saying in The Sun. “He has shown in the past that he can be emotional, but this year it seems a little more.”
MASSA TO SAY FAREWELL
Although Felipe Massa had already announced his decision to quit F1 at the end of the season, Williams did not announce their new driving partnership until after Mexico.
Rookie Lance Stroll will join Valtteri Bottas for 2017, but the focus at Interlagos will be on Massa as he races on home soil for the final time.
He said: “Interlagos is home. It’s the place that I grew up. It will be emotional racing there for the final time on such an amazing track. It won’t be easy, but I will do everything I can for my people and for Brazil in my last race at home.”
Bottas added: “I hope we can do well there and that he enjoys the weekend.”
MORE TO HAMILTON THAN DRIVING
The pressure is on for Hamilton, with anything less than a win making defending his world title from team-mate Rosberg impossible.
However, Hamilton – who has never topped the podium in Brazil – insists there is far more to him than racing and he is unaffected by criticism leveled at him for his attitude, the latest of which came following a video he posted of himself playing with a tiger.
Love this video bro @blackjaguarwhitetiger
A video posted by Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton) on
“There’s a lot more to me than just driving. Driving, while it’s what I do best, is not a huge part of me in the sense that I have a lot more to offer,” he said in an interview with City AM.
“It doesn’t matter what the pundits say, ‘oh he’s off travelling and partying’, I turn up and I win. Don’t talk to me about what I can and can’t do. I define who I am, I’m not defined by what people say. I might be in 10 different countries in a week, but I’ll turn up at the track and kill it.”
UNCERTAINTY OVER 2017 CALENDAR
As F1 gears up to head to Brazil and the famous Interlagos circuit, its presence in next year’s competition is yet to be confirmed. The grands prix of Canada and, surprisingly, Germany are also in danger of being left out next year.
F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone is trying to agree a new deal to ensure a return to Germany, which has a rich heritage in the sport, but admits financial matters are causing a delay.
“There is nothing sure yet. We are trying to make it happen. It seems that the promoter can’t make it financially viable,” he told Formula1.com. “They cannot pay a fee, which is a very reduced fee that we’ve done for them.
“It is not fair that they should pay a fee which is a lot less than the other European venues pay. We are trying to keep all the Europeans at the same amount.”