Wolff says teams interested in Mercedes ‘customer cars’

The Austrian brushed aside a suggestion that none of the smaller constructors, many of them struggling financially, wanted to relinquish their status and run cars provided by others.


“It’s interesting they say that because three of them came to see me (on Friday) about whether we could supply customer cars to them,” Wolff told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The subject is controversial, with critics saying such a change would lead to a two-tier sport dominated by the major manufacturers.

Advocates argue that is already the case and say the sport needs to do something to ensure there are enough cars on the starting grid and reduce the costs of competing.

There are currently 10 teams, with tail-enders Manor Marussia surviving by the skin of their teeth after going into administration last year.

Sauber, Lotus and Force India have all had financial problems while former champions Red Bull have raised the possibility of quitting if Renault fail to provide them with a competitive engine or walk away themselves.

Force India and Lotus are already customers of Mercedes, using their power units, but both have said publicly they want to make and race their own cars as the current rules stipulate.

Williams also have Mercedes engines while Sauber and Manor use Ferrari units.

“I think we need to have a contingency plan in place and customer cars, or franchises, we have seen that in other sports, in NASCAR, and it functions pretty well,” said Wolff, whose own Mercedes works team are currently dominant.

“So if the contingency is about supplying our cars to customer teams, hopefully current teams, then yes we will be looking very much into it,” he added.

“I think it is a good model. As a contingency plan it works, and if we can find a business case around it, we shouldn’t rule it out.”

Reports have said a recent Strategy Group meeting, which includes the top six teams plus governing FIA and the commercial rights holder, discussed the possibility of customer cars but there was no mention in a subsequent statement.

Commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told reporters in Monaco that he would be willing to act as a go-between and supply cars to client teams at a fixed cost..

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Marriage is a parliament matter: Abbott

Gay marriage in Australia is a matter for the federal parliament rather than a popular vote, Tony Abbott believes.


Nevertheless some MPs, including from the prime minister’s own back bench, are pushing for a referendum after Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing same-sex marriage in a historic referendum on Saturday.

“Referendums are held in this country where there’s a proposal to change the constitution,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.

“I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that the constitution needs to be changed in this respect.”

Liberal backbencher Zed Seselja says he doesn’t support gay marriage, but the question should be put to the people.

“If you are going to make such a fundamental change it should go to a referendum,” he told ABC television.

Independent senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie doesn’t support gay marriage either but backs a referendum on it.

Her fellow crossbencher Glenn Lazarus also wants the matter to go to the public and South Australian independent Nick Xenophon says he’d support a referendum if that was a “circuit breaker”.

“I think the best approach is that there be a conscience vote in the parliament … after all it has been an election issue,” Senator Xenophon told Sky News.

Should a bill to legalise same-sex marriage come before parliament, the coalition party room would decide whether government MPs could vote freely on the matter.

“It’s up to members of parliament who are eager for change to decide whether they want to bring it forward,” Mr Abbott said.

The Greens have legislation for the change already before parliament. A separate bill from Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm was due to be debated in March but he decided not to go ahead without coalition MPs having a conscience vote.

Under Liberal Party rules, backbenchers can vote freely but ministers must resign if they wish to cross the floor.

Labor’s policy is to allow conscience votes on the issue but deputy leader Tanya Plibersek wants the party’s national conference in July to bind MPs to vote in favour of gay marriage.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten voiced his support for Ireland’s move on Twitter on Saturday.

“Time for Australia and our Parliament to embrace marriage equality. Congratulations Ireland,” he said.

Mr Shorten later told reporters in Ballarat he also believed the matter was one for parliament to resolve.

He reiterated calls for Mr Abbott to allow a free vote among all coalition MPs.

Greens deputy leader Scott Ludlam hopes the Irish result moves the issue along in Australia.

“There were reports last week that we may be four votes short in the House of Representatives and we might be able to carry a majority in the Senate,” he told Sky News.

His minor party colleague Sarah Hanson-Young, who proposed the bill before parliament, says she’ll push for a vote on it by the end of 2015.

Bulldogs beat Raiders in NRL thriller

NSW State of Origin discard Josh Reynolds was the hero for Canterbury on Sunday as they held on to beat Canberra 41-34 in a 13-try NRL thriller.


Reynolds had a busy afternoon scoring two tries and was placed on report before slotting a crucial field goal in the 80th minute to break a 34-all deadlock and ensure Canterbury escaped with the points after leading 26-0 in the first half.

Halfback Moses Mbye scored a try after the restart from Reynolds’ field goal and converted on fulltime to punctuate the victory.

Reynolds’ one-pointer was slotted from just outside the 30m line and well towards the right touch line and coach Des Hasler said his performance sent a firm reminder to State of Origin selectors.

“I don’t know that it was a case of not being wanted by the New South Wales side,” Hasler said.

“But he certainly gave them a timely reminder.”

Hasler was particularly pleased with the way his side was able to hang on to the contest after Canberra fought back strongly to overcome a 26-point deficit after just 18 minutes.

“It was always going to be a difficult game, coming down here. I don’t think we had too many friends [in the crowd],” he said.

“It was just a matter of getting the points however we could. Obviously, the scoreline indicated the type of game that it was, but it was always going to be something special.

“We walk out of here, we get away with two competition points, and to be honest, we needed those given the nature of the competition.”

Captaining the side in the absence of injured skipper James Graham, Aiden Tolman played the full 80 minutes in the front row for Canterbury in a tireless performance.

But he was quick to deflect any attention away from his individual efforts.

“I just went out there and did what had to be done for the team, as did everyone today,” he said.

“It was a gutsy effort, it wasn’t pretty, but I suppose it’d be entertaining to watch.

“We were pretty lucky to hold on, with a special effort from Josh Reynolds. He stood up today and I’m more pleased to get the win than anything else.”

In a game with momentum swings of epic proportions, a second try to Canberra’s Sisa Waqa with five minutes remaining, converted beautifully from the sideline by Canberra captain Jarrod Croker, levelled scores at 34-34.

Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin missed a field goal attempt in the 76th minute and Canberra were left to rue a Josh Hodgson kick that handed over possession.

Canterbury were able to maintain possession inside Canberra territory before Reynolds potted the field goal in the final minute.

A timely NRL classic in Canberra

The timing of the NRL classic between Canterbury and Canberra could not have been better.


A day after the case for a stand-alone State of Origin series was made loud and clear by a stinker of a game at Campbelltown, the Bulldogs and the Raiders produced a 13-try thriller on Sunday.

Missing four players on Origin duty for NSW, including halfback Trent Hodkinson, the Bulldogs scored seven tries to six in the 41-34 win as they rediscovered their best form.

NSW discard Josh Reynolds starred for the Bulldogs with a couple of tries and a field goal as Canterbury ended a three-game losing run.

Hodkinson’s replacement Moses Mbye was outstanding for Canterbury with the youngster making the most of his opportunity at halfback, sealing the victory with a runaway try on fulltime.

The sides scored nearly as many tries (seven) in the first half as there were points in North Queensland’s 8-0 win over hosts Wests Tigers on Saturday night.

Fans at Campbelltown had to wait until the 77th minute for a try with Antonio Winterstein’s four-pointer preventing the match from becoming the lowest-scoring game since Newtown and Canterbury’s scoreless draw in 1982.

North Queensland went into the game without Queensland Origin stars Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott and Michael Morgan and NSW prop James Tamou while the Tigers were missing NSW big guns Aaron Woods and skipper Robbie Farah.

Both sides produced disjointed attacking displays with the game politely referred to as “dour”.

Former NRL coach and now commentator, Matthew Elliott, is in the stand-alone camp and made his case on Sunday.

“You take key players out … you are taking quality, high quality out. You can’t expect the game to be at the same level,” Elliott said on ABC Grandstand.

“The continuity is not there, so you’re not going to get flowing footy taking key players out.”

Tigers coach Jason Taylor decided to sit out the argument with his focus on getting his misfiring young team back on track after three straight losses.

“I don’t know. Right now, that question is something that I don’t want to come up with any energy to answer,” Taylor said.

Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted the Tigers were a different proposition without their captain.

“Without Robbie there they probably lost a little bit of direction, so it just became a bit of an arm wrestle for most of the game,” Green said.

The round kicked off with premiers South Sydney defeating Parramatta 14-12 thanks to late try from young hooker Cameron McInnes in a game which didn’t reach any great heights.

Round 11 action concludes with the Monday night clash between Newcastle and Brisbane at Hunter Stadium.

Ecclestone tells Rosberg: Hamilton is better for business

“I am a huge Lewis fan because he is a super promoter of the sport,” Ecclestone said in a conversation with Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Rosberg published on the official formula1.


com website.

“From a pure business aspect — sorry Nico if I have to say this — you are not so good for my business.”

When Rosberg told Ecclestone that was a “hard call”, Ecclestone pointed to the lack of a German Grand Prix this season.

“It sounds harder than it meant. Unfortunately you don’t have the German fans on your side. As the cancellation of the German Grand Prix indicates, Germany is a terrible market for Formula One.

“On the contrary Lewis is a hero in the UK. The British love Formula One. Sebastian is also not doing much for F1. People hardly recognise him on the street.”

Double champion Hamilton, who was on pole for Sunday’s showcase Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Rosberg and Ferrari’s Vettel, has become a familiar face in celebrity magazines and websites for his jet-setting lifestyle.

The 30-year-old Briton has made friends in Hollywood and the U.S. music scene as well as the fashion industry.

“I still believe that Lewis is the best champion that we have had in a long, long time. He manages to get to all different walks of life: red carpet, fashion business, and music — you name it,” Ecclestone told Rosberg.

“That is not your fault or his. You two are just very different characters.

“Nico is not seeking the limelight as Lewis does. Lewis wants to be famous,” explained the 84-year-old Briton. “I am happy that we have somebody like Lewis. I also couldn’t be like Lewis. I don’t like gold jewellery.”

Ecclestone also said the team principals should be more prominent, and said new Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene was a character “only for himself and not for Formula One”.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)