McLaren defend under-fire sponsor and Mercedes concept fears emerge – F1 news round-up

Jamie Woodhouse
McLaren driver Lando Norris en route to second place at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

McLaren driver Lando Norris en route to second place at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.

It has been another busy day in the world of Formula 1 as personnel prepare to awaken from their summer slumber.

Not long to go now before the season resumes at Circuit Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix from August 25-27, but will a key McLaren sponsor be absent from their livery once the cars hit the track?

Elsewhere, questions have been raised over the origin of Mercedes’ W14 concept changes, while Ferrari are looking to fast-track a key signing from the Silver Arrows. Let us then bring you up to speed with all the key talking points.

McLaren sponsor subject of multiple complaints

Regular fans of Formula 1 may well have noticed the Velo branding which adorns their MCL60 challenger, but it will be absent at the Dutch Grand Prix should the multiple health organisations which have spoken out get their way.

Velo, marketed as a ‘great alternative to traditional smoking’, has been subject to a sale ban in the Netherlands since April due to health concerns, so the Dutch Heart Foundation, KWF cancer fund, and the Lung Fund have set out to stop McLaren promoting the product during their Zandvoort visit.

KWF director Carla van Gils told De Telegraaf: “To sustain a sickening and deadly business, in our opinion, this is contrary to good taste and decency.”

McLaren though, legally, believe there is no requirement to ditch the branding.

Read more: McLaren defend sponsor amidst calls for livery ban

David Croft suspects drivers steering Mercedes concept decisions

After a bitterly disappointing start to F1 2023, Mercedes soon realised that if they were to return to the title picture where they crave to be in the coming years, then their unique take on the ground effect F1 regulations was not going to cut it.

Mercedes’ seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton led the charge in criticising his team for not listening to his feedback, with the B-Spec W14 which followed failing to provide Mercedes with that surge up the order which they and Hamilton were looking for.

The concerns of Sky F1 commentator Croft then revolve around who exactly is spearheading this new direction at Mercedes.

“Is the engineering team saying we need to be changing our concept, or is it pressure from those in the cockpit from Lewis and from George?” Croft pondered.

Read more: Pundit worried Mercedes concept changes driven by those in ‘the cockpit’, not the engineers

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Only way Ferrari could tempt Lewis Hamilton to join identified

Until Hamilton at long last signs a contract extension with Mercedes, rumours regarding his future with the team will continue to swirl, and the common escape route mentioned has been Ferrari.

While team and driver have shut down suggestions of talks taking place, followed by a report that Hamilton had in fact snubbed Ferrari’s approach, three-time Le Mans LMP2 winner David Kennedy has expressed his belief that Ferrari are the only team who could maybe sway Hamilton towards the Mercedes exit door.

If they are to do that though, then they best be ready to flex their financial muscles.

“I really can’t see him stepping out anywhere other than where he is, unless Ferrari makes some really sizable offer somewhere along the line,” Kennedy told PlanetF1.com.

Read more: Lewis Hamilton facing ‘engineer decision’ as Ferrari temptation complicates contract talks

Ferrari hatch Toto Wolff plan to bring in “leading name”

Ferrari, like rivals Mercedes, find themselves with a great deal of work to do if they are to reel in Formula 1’s dominant force Red Bull.

They are bolstering their ranks to take on the challenge though, including the capture of a “leading name” who is set to join the Scuderia from January 2025, but team principal Fred Vasseur wants to shave some time off that gardening leave period.

Rumours that this figure is Mercedes performance director Loic Serra have not been made official, but Vasseur’s latest comments drop a strong hint that their star recruit in-waiting has been correctly identified.

“How can I get Toto Wolff to release him sooner? I’ll try it when we’re on the boat together,” Vasseur told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Read more: Ferrari aim to bring forward ‘leading name’ signing date after 2025 deal agreed

Guenther Steiner reiterates reluctance over new F1 team

Not since 2016 has Formula 1 welcomed in a new team, back when Haas joined the grid led by Guenther Steiner, but the latest crop of hopeful entrants are receiving far from a warm welcome.

Steiner has joined the likes of Mercedes team boss Wolff in expressing concerns over a potential expansion of the grid, with the FIA now checking over the submitted Expressions of Interest, and Steiner does not want to see any changes to the landscape made which would threaten the current stability.

“Now you’ve got 10 very stable teams, which are all technically stable, financially stable,” he told media including PlanetF1.com.

“If you put another team in and maybe somebody’s getting in jeopardy in three or four years’ time, maybe we’ve got only eight or nine teams left.”

Read more: Guenther Steiner warns against ‘risks’ of adding new team to F1 grid

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