F1: Here’s all the latest gossip and rumour in Formula 1 during a quiet January pre-season.
Sponsors don’t renew deals with Bottas & Hulkenberg
Prominent sponsors of two of F1’s biggest names have decided not to renew their deals after many years. Valtteri Bottas will no longer be personally sponsored by Finnish group Wihuri. Antti Aarnio-Wihuri, owner of the company, is understood to have become disappointed by Bottas’ mediocre results in 2018 and withdrew support from both him and Mercedes. Wihuri sponsored Bottas from 2000 up until last season, supporting the young Finn throughout his career from karting onwards.
Nico Hulkenberg has also lost German inspection company DEKRA, having first earned their backing in 2004. With huge reach within motorsport through other series, this may be down to prioritising visibility elsewhere as opposed to with a single driver, but it’s worth noting that DEKRA were long-time sponsors of Michael Schumacher, whose son Mick is now an F2 racer and is apparently knocking on the door of the Ferrari junior program.
Could a switch of driver allegiance be on the cards?
— Nico Hülkenberg (@HulkHulkenberg) January 14, 2019
Elsewhere in sponsor news, it’s believed McLaren have retained Coca-Cola as an F1 sponsor for 2019, having initially only signed the drinks giant as a sponsor for individual races in 2018. However, this is yet to be confirmed.
Sauber have confirmed they have signed Sparco as a sponsor. The Italian manufacturer will supply the F1 team with safety gear and equipment, as well as the safety belts for the cars. Their logo will be visible on the sidepod floor of the new car.
Race of Champions set for Mexican standoffs this weekend
The annual RoC takes place at the Foro Sol at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City this weekend. With several F1 drivers confirmed to be taking part in the international competition, here are the drawn groups for this weekend’s action. Team Germany are particularly noteworthy, as multiple winner Sebastian Vettel teams up with Mick Schumacher, after a successful partnership with Michael in years past.
Team GERMANY (Sebastian Vettel & Mick Schumacher)
Team MEXICO (Esteban Gutierrez & Patricio O’Ward)
Team INFINITUM MEXICO (Memo Rojas & Benito Guerra)
Team FRANCE (Pierre Gasly & Loïc Duval)
Team BRAZIL (Helio Castroneves & Lucas di Grassi)
Team TELCEL MEXICO (Daniel Suárez & ROC Mexico Saturday winner*)
Team SIM RACING ALL STARS (Enzo Bonito & eROC winner)
Team NORDIC (Tom Kristensen & Johan Kristoffersson)
Team GREAT BRITAIN (David Coulthard & Andy Priaulx)
Team USA (Ryan Hunter-Reay & Josef Newgarden)
Race Of Champions Draw (Sunday 20 January)
David COULTHARD (Great Britain) 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
Tom KRISTENSEN (Denmark) nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner
Patricio O’WARD (Mexico) 2018 Indy Lights Champion
Winner of Round 1A between the ROC Mexico Sunday winner* and Andy PRIAULX
Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (Sweden) double FIA World Rallycross Champion
Lucas DI GRASSI (Brazil) 2016-2017 Formula E Champion
Josef NEWGARDEN (USA) 2017 IndyCar Champion
Winner of Round 1B between Loïc DUVAL and Helio CASTRONEVES
Sebastian VETTEL (Germany) four-time Formula 1 World Champion
Daniel SUAREZ (Mexico) 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion
Benito GUERRA (Mexico) 2012 Production World Rally Champion
Winner of Round 1C between Memo ROJAS and Mick SCHUMACHER
Pierre GASLY (France) Formula 1 driver for Red Bull Racing in 2019
Esteban GUTIERREZ (Mexico) Formula 1 driver for Sauber and Haas
Ryan HUNTER-REAY (USA) 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner
Winner of Round 1D between Enzo BONITO and the 2019 eROC Champion
Red Bull Racing & Honda are enjoying their honeymoon
It’s all positive vibes at Red Bull at the moment, who are full of praise for their new Honda partner. Despite them being yet to turn a wheel together on track, simulated data has filled the management team with hope after a year of sacrificial progress with Toro Rosso acting as test mules for the new partnership.
“The figures make us really optimistic, also with regard to the increase in performance.” Marko told Motorsport.com.“The Honda engine is already slightly above the Renault engine and if you combine our GPS data with the data provided by Honda, we’ll be in the Mercedes and Ferrari region.”