Vettel: Red Bull may be closer to Mercedes this weekend

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Sebastian Vettel was left feeling optimistic about Red Bull’s chances at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix following practice today, believing that the team may be a step closer to Mercedes than it has been at recent races.

Mercedes has been the runaway team in the 2014 world championship, with title holders Red Bull failing to put up much of a fight. The RB10 car has been hindered by the troublesome Renault power unit, but Vettel feels that these issues are less noticeable in Hungary, although he does remain wary of the cars behind.

“I think we could be a little bit closer this weekend,” he explained. “At least today it looked a bit better, but then again we saw that people can make a big step from Friday to Saturday, particularly Williams, so we have to be careful.

“We hope we can do a big enough step to keep the pace of today, and to be able to use a little bit more power, but we’ll have to wait and see where we are.”

Vettel finished third in FP2 on Friday afternoon, and his long run pace suggests that he could finish as the best of the rest on Sunday behind the Mercedes drivers.

Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was less comfortable, echoing Lewis Hamilton’s comments about the lack of grip at the Hungaroring today.

“To be honest we struggled quite a lot today trying to find the grip,” the Australian explained. “This circuit does tend to ramp up a lot over the weekend, this morning’s session the grip was really low for everyone and we saw a lot of people sliding.

“We thought we would find some more this afternoon but we didn’t quite evolve with the track, so we’ve got a bit of work to do tonight to understand that, but that’s what Friday’s are for, you learn, you try things and hopefully you put it all together Friday night in the best way for qualifying.”

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.