Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
Raikkonen gifts 'leave me alone' t-shirts to Lotus staff
- Bianchi tests Ferrari improvements for Alonso
- Van der Garde denies Caterham announcement imminent
- Pirelli names Sutil, Kobayashi as F1 tester candidates
- Merc should have kept Schu, not Rosberg - Villeneuve
- DRS makes Villeneuve 'angry'
- Rain could be headache for F1
- Q&A with Eric Boullier
Raikkonen gifts 'leave me alone' t-shirts to Lotus staff
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has turned his newly-famous grand prix-winning catchphrase into a t-shirt for the entire staff of the Lotus team.
The inimitable 'iceman' thrilled his fans with his radio banter - broadcast live on television - en route to the first win of his F1 comeback recently in Abu Dhabi.
And, to mark the Enstone based team's first win since its works Renault days, Raikkonen memorialized his most famous Abu Dhabi uttering - 'Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing' - on the front of t-shirts for the entire Lotus staff.
The 500 t-shirts arrived at Enstone last Friday, according to the BBC.
The 2007 world champion said this week: "I think you can probably find other messages from me in the car if you search Youtube; even from my short time in Nascar."
Lotus team boss Eric Boullier added: "'Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing' has already become a formula one classic!"
Bianchi tests Ferrari improvements for Alonso
(GMM) Ferrari is still pushing hard to give Fernando Alonso a title-winning Ferrari for the final back-to-back head-to-head with Sebastian Vettel.
With Red Bull and Vettel's qualifying problems allowing Alonso to claw back 3 points in Abu Dhabi, the Spaniard is still 10 points adrift with just Austin and Brazil to go.
And with the red F2012 still not a match for the Adrian Newey-penned RB8, Alonso said after finishing second in Abu Dhabi: "We need to keep working and in Maranello they work day and night to bring new parts."
Indeed, the Spanish sports daily Marca reports that, following two similar straight-line aerodynamic outings recently, Ferrari has been back in action at the Idiada facility in Spain.
At the wheel of the car was Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who as well as being Force India's test driver is also in Ferrari's development 'academy'.
Marca said Bianchi was testing a new rear wing and diffuser, while other Spanish reports said the F2012 featured even more new parts than that.
"With Fernando, you don't have to give him the best car," Marc Gene, another Ferrari test driver, told El Confidencial.
"You just have to give him one with which he can fight the best car, and he will do the rest.
"The team is working hard to give him the best car possible."
Mark Webber, Vettel's teammate but a better friend of Alonso's, said recently that if it rains as the championship showdown looms, punters might be wise to put money on the Spaniard.
Gene said: "The forecast for the US and Brazil suggests that they could be wet races, and we know that the Ferrari has proved a very reliable car when water appears."
The first title showdown will be at Austin's brand new Circuit of the Americas this weekend.
A local meteorologist told the Austin American Statesman newspaper: "The best rain chances come Saturday evening into Sunday, but they are still very slight, about 20 per cent."
Van der Garde denies Caterham announcement imminent
(GMM) Giedo van der Garde has played down reports he is set to be imminently unveiled as a Caterham race driver for 2013.
The well-backed Dutchman, who this year contested the GP2 championship for Tony Fernandes' team, has also been Caterham's reserve driver in 2012 and has recently been driving the green CT01 in Friday morning practice sessions.
Rumors last week, as van der Garde tested the Caterham in Abu Dhabi, suggested the 27-year-old is now on the cusp of securing a full race drive for 2013.
"Discussions are ongoing," van der Garde is quoted by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
"On both sides there is the intention to keep working together, and I hope to have clarity within two to three weeks."
Because Caterham stands to lose millions in Concorde Agreement earnings due to falling behind Marussia in the constructors' championship, it is rumored van der Garde could oust the team's highly rated paid driver Heikki Kovalainen.
And according to speculation, Frenchman Charles Pic is the favorite to replace Vitaly Petrov, whose Russian funding has reportedly dried up.
Pirelli names Sutil, Kobayashi as F1 tester candidates
(GMM) Paul Hembery has named a trio of potential candidates to be F1 tire supplier Pirelli's test driver in 2013.
The Briton, who is the head of the Italian marque's F1 program, confirmed that Brazilian Lucas di Grassi's testing contract runs to the end of next year.
"Lucas does a great job for us. After next year his continuation depends on our decision to stay or not in 2013," Hembery told Brazil's Totalrace.
Jaime Alguersuari was the other Pirelli tester in 2012, but the former Toro Rosso racer is hoping to return to a race seat next season.
"In addition to Lucas, we are evaluating other names in the market like (Adrian) Sutil and Alguersuari."
German Sutil, however, clearly has plans to race next year. After a season on the bench in 2012, the former Force India driver has updated his official website with the words 'Next destination: Australia'.
What about Kamui Kobayashi? According to strong rumors, the Japanese could be replaced at Sauber by the Telmex-backed Esteban Gutierrez, or the impressive rookie Dutchman Robin Frijns.
"It's a possibility," said Hembery. "We'll see what happens with him (Kobayashi). I imagine he's still trying to get a (race) seat, so we'll wait."
Hembery had even recently mentioned Michael Schumacher's name as a possible Pirelli tester.
"I tried in Japan to convince him," he smiled, "but it didn't work. I think he wants to go skydiving or something!"
Merc should have kept Schu, not Rosberg - Villeneuve
(GMM) Jacques Villeneuve says he does not think Mercedes has made the right choice in pairing Lewis Hamilton with Nico Rosberg next year.
The 1997 world champion does not, however, question the German marque's decision to poach Hamilton from McLaren.
Instead, Villeneuve wonders about his former title nemesis Michael Schumacher's exit.
"Why is he stopping?" the 41-year-old told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell.
"I don't understand. Hamilton-Schumacher would be much better than what they do have for next year," the outspoken Villeneuve insisted.
But German Rosberg insists he is "very happy" with how he has compared against the great Schumacher since 2010, even though the pairing have been more closely matched this season.
"It's true that Michael has had bad luck, but so have I," Rosberg told Germany's Auto Bild.
And in their qualifying head-to-head in 2012, Schumacher and Rosberg have been very evenly matched.
"As far as qualifying is concerned, there is nothing special to say about it," Rosberg insisted.
"For three years I have had the upper hand, which is more than I had expected at the beginning. I am very happy with it," he added.
DRS makes Villeneuve 'angry'
(GMM) Jacques Villeneuve has admitted he is no fan of 'DRS', the moveable rear wing innovation that for the past two seasons has made passing much easier in formula one.
The critics of the 'drag reduction system', however, say it only creates artificial racing, and indeed often deprives the sport of many genuine head-to-heads.
"Every time I see DRS I get angry," 1997 world champion Villeneuve told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell.
"It destroys every good battle.
"What also annoys me is the rule about only changing your line once. That's the worst one of all," said the 41-year-old former Williams, BAR and BMW driver.
"The rule should be that blocking is not allowed -- that's it," added Villeneuve.
He is therefore critical of the 'new generation' of F1 drivers, saving particular rebuke for Romain Grosjean, who Villeneuve alleges is "totally of control".
"Or what Maldonado did to Hamilton in Valencia," he added.
Villeneuve blames some of that culture on the high standards of today's circuits.
"Today, where the run-off used to be grass, now it's paved. But that (the grass) often made you withdraw automatically. Now many are pushing without thinking.
"The young drivers coming into formula one today are not ready. Playing video games all day, they've forgotten that motor sport is dangerous."
Rain could be headache for F1
Even as they’re scurrying to stage Austin’s inaugural Formula One race next weekend, officials at Circuit of the Americas are keeping one very concerned eye on the skies. Few things can play more havoc with a big event – and with the traffic it generates — than weather. And right now it’s looking a little iffy for what could be the largest sporting spectacle ever held in Austin.
Joe Baskin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there is no rain in the forecast for Friday, when the F1 teams are practicing. But some weather models show slight chances for showers during Saturday qualifying, and Baskin predicted a cloudy day with highs in the low 70s.
“The best rain chances come Saturday evening into Sunday, but they are still very slight, at about 20 percent,” Baskin said.
Unlike NASCAR, Formula One races in the rain, which often provides more action. Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone once floated the idea of installing sprinklers at tracks to create more overtaking, as passing is called.
Races can be suspended and resumed later if it rains too hard. But races must be completed within four hours of the start, and there are no makeup days, such as Mondays.
But a wet day dampens more than just the track. Earlier this month, the circuit had a sobering taste of the effect even a little inclement weather can have on an event.
Then, heavy morning fog turned a fun run at the circuit into a transportation headache. Delays of more than an hour were reported as FM 812 backed up like a clogged kitchen sink. The main artery to the circuit was overwhelmed by an estimated 5,000 people – a fraction of what’s expected for the first Formula One Grand Prix in the United States in five years.
Circuit officials vowed to use the run as a learning experience, which is prudent because things could be worse. Much worse.
The last time a world-class motorsport facility debuted in this state, 15 years ago, rain turned the area around Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth into Carmaggedon for 200,000 spectators. Transportation was so snarled that some fans trudged for miles on two-lane country roads and through muddy fields where cars were trapped waiting, sometimes days, for a tow.
At this year’s British Grand Prix, heavy rains for Friday’s practice sessions turned grass parking lots into mud pits and caused huge traffic delays. Officials from Austin saw the problems first-hand during a trip to the race to watch preparations.
For Austin’s first F1 weekend meteorologists, predicted lows in the 40s and 50s and the highs in the 60s and low 70s.
That’s slightly chillier than the norm for this time of year when the high is usually about 70 degrees and lows are close to 50.
According to the Weather Underground commercial website for the past seven years mid-November has been pretty mild, with only a few days of light rain.
Austin has had some downpours in mid-November in the past 12 years. On Nov. 16, 2004, it rained 1.58 inches followed by a deluge of 3.45 inches the next day. On Nov. 15, 2001, Austin was flooded with 6.81 inches of rain.
The circuit has 17,000 on-site parking spots, the majority of which are grass or gravel. Austin Racetrack Partners recently purchased 30 acres next to the racetrack. If there’s no rain, partner Wally Scott said a grass parking lot there might be able to hold 1,000 cars.
“But if it rains, we’re dead in the water,” said Scott.
In 1997, the opening of Texas Motor Speedway was marred by three inches of rain that fell in the days prior to the race.
Grass lots on the former farmland quickly turned into dark swamps, making 60 percent of the parking lots unusable. Track officials hastily set up three remote shuttle lots and spent $500,000 rounding up 255 shuttle busses for fans.
Not that the plan worked. Cars still became mired in parking lots, traffic backed up for miles, and some fans left their cars and trudged to the track. Things were so bad that track owner Bruton Smith, then 70, hopped out of his ride to try to play traffic cop.
Thanks in large part to the rain, NASCAR didn’t really work in its first stop at TMS. But 15 years after surviving that deluge that track is still up and running, proving that even bad weather can be, well, weathered.
Meteorologists predict lows in the 40s and 50s and the highs in the 60s and low 70s, which is slightly chillier than the norm for this time of year, when the high is usually about 70 degrees and lows are close to 50.
There is no rain in the forecast for Friday, but some weather models show slight chances for showers Saturday, and Joe Baskin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, predicted a cloudy day with highs in the low 70s.
The best chances for rain are Saturday evening into Sunday, Baskin said, when the chance for rain is about 20 percent. The Statesman
Q&A with Eric Boullier
Lotus team boss Eric Boullier shares his thoughts on Kimi Raikkonen's Abu Dhabi win and looks ahead to Austin...
Q: How was the response to the victory in Abu Dhabi?
EB: I received over four hundred messages at the track after the checkered flag! It was a pleasant surprise to see that a few of them were coming from our rival teams saying how happy they were for us. It was nice to hear that people in the paddock thought we deserved the victory. Also, standing on the podium as Team Principal of the winning constructor was something really special. It was a very emotional moment. I hope we get used to it very soon.
Q: What was the feeling at Enstone once you returned to the factory?
EB: People are happy and have a new spring in their step; even if the weather outside the factory is very cold now! There's a fantastic feeling of excitement and we have two races yet to go. We did it once and we can do it again this season. It took us time to get this win but we all knew that we could do it. It did arrive at a time when more and more people start working on next year's car, which is good timing.
Q: Is it in some ways an even stronger endorsement of the team for the victory to come so late in the year as it shows Lotus F1 Team can keep the development battle going season-long?
EB: Our team is far from having the biggest budget on the grid, but I see it as an advantage. It forces us to be clever and it is one of Enstone's trademarks. Bringing upgrades in October which made our car faster again and catching the best in the sport on pace proves that this team can deliver.
Q: Talking of delivering, Kimi certainly did the business behind the wheel?
EB: This was maybe a surprise for anyone on the outside of the team that doubted him, but for everyone on the inside it was not. Kimi has certainly made his mark and shown that he's back in Formula 1 and back at his best form. Having him back getting podiums and a win is great for him, great for the team and great for the fans. Moreover, "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing" has already become a Formula 1 classic!
Q: How difficult was it for you on the pit wall seeing his lead disappear with the safety car then watching Fernando [Alonso] relentlessly hounding him to the end?
EB: It was certainly the longest race of my short Formula 1 career! The last twenty-two laps in particular were very long. We could see that Kimi had built and was continuing to build a nice gap but the safety car destroyed that. He built a gap again at the restart, but then Fernando started closing meaning that the last lap was quite scary.
Q: On the other side of the garage can Romain take heart from the pace in the car?
EB: Romain had another learning experience in Abu Dhabi, but he showed that he could deliver well with the strategy we chose after changing tires following the puncture he received on the first lap. He exited the race because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Q: How does it feel for Formula 1 to be heading back to the States?
EB: We as a team are very happy to be returning to the USA especially as we strongly believe that it's a market where Formula 1 should be. We already have some American partners, so it's good to be racing in their home country. It a land of tremendous opportunity for Formula 1 and we hope to build on this opportunity in the future. Also, we took part in the opening ceremony of the track two weeks ago, and the buzz it has generated was quite surprising. I'm sure that America likes Formula 1 more than people think.
Q: Fourth in the championship was our target for the season - we now have more than double the points of the fifth-placed team. Is that a good endorsement of where we stand looking ahead to 2013?
EB: Fourth was obviously the target we set ourselves at the start of the year and that's where we are in the standings right now. Obviously, you can be fourth and close behind third position, or fourth and just in front of fifth. Our position relative to fifth-placed Mercedes is quite flattering. Being fourth and fighting with teams like Ferrari and McLaren - by having a win on the board and a number of podiums - has clearly put us in a position where we could develop a stronger image of a team growing and maturing; a team on the up. This is certainly appealing from a commercial point of view and the numbers of partners joining us this year is a proof of that. On the other hand, fourth is still fourth, and we know how much harder we need to push in developing our resources and the company to ensure we can break into the top three next year. Source: Lotus