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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday UPDATE #2 More updates shown in red below.

11/10/11 Updates shown in red below.

  • Pastor Maldonado
    Maldonado happy to keep Barrichello as teammate
  • Abu Dhabi F1 talks 'more important than race'
  • D'Ambrosio looks around but no Virgin decision yet
  • Raikkonen finally confirms Williams talks
  • Boss blames drivers for Sauber's slow pitstops
  • Rosberg extends Mercedes contract for 2013 and beyond
  • Force India to decide 2012 lineup before Brazil New
  • Banker fell in love with F1 lifestyle New
  • Raikkonen rumors stalk Barrichello, Sutil in Abu Dhabi New
  • Spanish fan admits to having Webber's Monza wing New
  • Schumacher not in future talks with Mercedes yet New
  • Hamilton says Whitmarsh claim 'rubbish' New 

Maldonado happy to keep Barrichello as teammate
(GMM)  As Williams considers its options, Pastor Maldonado has revealed he is happy to race at the British team alongside Rubens Barrichello.

With his millions in Venezuelan backing, the 2011 rookie's race seat is considered safe for 2012.

But the same it not true of Brazilian veteran Barrichello, as Williams admits talks with Kimi Raikkonen and reportedly also eyes Force India's experienced and sponsor-backed Adrian Sutil.

"The season might not have been great but I believe, at Williams, we have one of the best driver pairings in F1," said Maldonado.

"Unfortunately, the car is not competitive but, to have Rubens as a teammate, for me, is great because he has helped me with everything," he is quoted by The National.

"He's an incredibly talented driver and is still so incredibly motivated.  He's helped me to improve my time and technique out there."

Williams, likely to finish the 2011 championship ahead only of F1's small new-in-2010 teams, has had arguably the worst ever season in its decades of history.

It is therefore easy to point the finger at someone like Maldonado, who despite winning last year's GP2 championship is seen by many as a typical 'pay-driver'.

"I feel after winning the GP2 championship and the way I did it, I think I deserved my place in F1, that I was ready," he insists.  "And Williams are not a team that just sign up drivers for money.

"When you come here, you expect to win here.  That's what I want to do and that's the aim for the team.  I want to stay here and to win."

Abu Dhabi F1 talks 'more important than race'
(GMM)  Martin Whitmarsh would be happy if the forthcoming negotiations over F1's future results in the teams owning a slice of the sport.

With the bitter political battle of 2009 still in memory, many of F1's paddock players are looking nervously towards the expiry next year of the crucial tripartite Concorde Agreement.

As ever, everyone wants a bigger slice of the lucrative pie.

But this time around, talk of a 'breakaway' series is unlikely to be used as a weapon -- perhaps because the existing agreement now forbids it.

Instead, the big talking point could be the teams' interest in joining up with CVC and Bernie Ecclestone as actual co-owners of the commercial rights.

"If you are trying to create partnership in most businesses then a bit of cross equity is useful," confirmed Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal and also chairman of FOTA, the 11-team alliance.

"At the moment the teams contract for a finite period to the Concorde Agreement.  If teams were equity holders - even on a small scale - then it encourages all stakeholders and potential investing partners that you have some continuity," he added.

It goes without saying, however, that in the highly competitive world of formula one, it is perhaps surprising that FOTA has essentially stayed together for so long.

That could be about to change, with a burgeoning disagreement over the voluntary cost-cutting resource restriction agreement (RRA) heading for crucial talks this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Writing in O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, Livio Oricchio said the meeting is arguably "more important than the grand prix" this weekend.

Mercedes' Ross Brawn agrees that the body's continuing harmony is "essential" and "everyone should do everything to keep it together".

HRT has already left FOTA, and the temptation for others to join the small Spanish team might be high, with F1 chief executive Ecclestone famous for 'divide and conquer'.

"If the small teams want the money split 12 ways equally then that is unrealistic," Whitmarsh told the Financial Times.  "But it falls on all of us to get to something that is fair and equitable.

"(Without) the small teams we are in trouble.  We need them to race against and we would be diminished if we lost them.

"It's a challenge and it is something that can be preyed upon in a negotiation," he added.  "Bernie is very, very good at that."

The obvious tactic for FOTA, then, is to stick together.

"We wouldn't be very smart if we didn't," Whitmarsh insisted, urging F1's strong personalities to "overcome our respective egos, leave the past behind and look forward".

And a joker in the pack is the Jean Todt-led FIA, who lease the commercial rights to Ecclestone/CVC but do not otherwise have a stake.

"We do not want to grab the rights back.  But we definitely want an input in these rights in some sort of capacity," confirmed FIA spokesman Norman Howell.

D'Ambrosio looks around but no Virgin decision yet
(GMM)  Virgin has refused to confirm reports it has already decided to replace Jerome d'Ambrosio with French rookie Charles Pic in 2012.

The French sports daily L'Equipe reported on Wednesday that 21-year-old Pic, fourth in GP2 this year and backed by the Lagardere group, will be Timo Glock's new teammate.

It is believed Pic will test for Virgin, to become Marussia next season, at the forthcoming young drivers' test in Abu Dhabi.

"We expect after the testing of young drivers and after the end of the season to make our (2012 driver lineup) decision with a public statement," a team spokesperson told the Belgian news agency Belga.

"The final decision on Timo Glock's teammate is not done yet," the official added.

The French sports.fr portal, meanwhile, quoted Pic's agent as insisting that the youngster has not yet signed up with any team for 2012.

The report said Pic, who has definitely travelled to Abu Dhabi, could also test with Team Lotus/Caterham at Yas Marina.

D'Ambrosio's manager Benjamin Mignot, overseeing the Belgian's career for the Gravity group, insisted all is not lost for the 25-year-old.

"I'm not going to tell you that we are looking at being at Ferrari instead of Ferrari," he joked to Le Soir newspaper.

"But we know that Barrichello is still not confirmed at Williams and there are also seats available at HRT and also Virgin.

"Clearly we are not willing to have any seat at any price, but we believe firmly that Jerome has a place in F1 in 2012," added Mignot.

Raikkonen finally confirms Williams talks
(GMM)  He says a deal is not done, but Kimi Raikkonen has finally admitted talking to Williams about possibly returning to formula one next year.

Amid intensifying speculation about the 2007 world champion's plans, Williams co-owner Toto Wolff confirmed last week that the talks with former McLaren and Ferrari race winner Raikkonen about next season are "serious".

Ahead of the last world rally round of 2011 in Wales, Raikkonen on Wednesday finally admitted the same.

"We have been talking with them (Williams)," the 32-year-old is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat, "but I do not have any agreement in any direction.

"Nothing has changed," added Raikkonen, referring to the last time he insisted he is not sure what he is going to do next year.

After leaving F1 at the end of 2009, Raikkonen has raced almost full time in world rally, also dabbling in the world of NASCAR.

"It's been fun and, compared to where I started, I have developed a lot," he said, referring to rallying.

"I wasn't expecting anything even though I always try to go as fast as I could.  Sometimes the results were good, sometimes not so good."

With Michael Schumacher having struggled to readjust after a three-year sabbatical, Raikkonen played down the challenge of coming back to F1.

"It is the thing I have done most of my life.  Much more challenging would be to try to do something else," he said.

And the winner of 18 grands prix also does not think F1 has changed too much since 2009.

"From what you can see on TV, no.  The main difference is the tires," he said.

Kaj Lindstrom, Raikkonen's recent co-driver, would like to see the Finn keep rallying.

"He will make his own decision but it would be interesting to see how far he can go in the rally," he said.  "The only way to develop is to drive.

"I said at the start that this is a four-year project if you want to get to the top," added Lindstrom.

Boss blames drivers for Sauber's slow pitstops
(GMM)  Sauber has pointed the finger at its drivers after the Swiss team featured low on the list of average pitstop speed in 2011.

According to the pitstop analysis of the 17 grands prix so far, Sauber was ranked equal eighth of the twelve teams, on average 1.3 seconds per pitstop slower than the pacesetter Red Bull.

"Until now, pitstops were one of Sauber's strongest weapons," noted veteran Blick correspondent Roger Benoit.

Team boss Beat Zehnder said in Abu Dhabi: "As far as 2011 goes, we have a problem with our drivers.  80 per cent of the time they (Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi) don't stop at the right place in the box.

"This costs us valuable time.  (In India) Perez was about three meters out of place, costing us about three seconds because the whole team has to move position with all the gear.

"Because of that we lost position to (Force India's) Sutil," Zehnder charged.

Another problem could be Sauber's perseverance with a 'lollipop man', while faster pit crews including Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault use the automated 'traffic light' system.

"The automatic system with sensors brings you half a second, but when it goes wrong it's damn dangerous," said Zehnder.

Rosberg extends Mercedes contract for 2013 and beyond
(GMM)  Mercedes has ended speculation about Nico Rosberg's future by announcing the 26-year-old has extended his contract.

German Rosberg, who was already contracted to race alongside Michael Schumacher next season, has now inked a "multi-year" extension to include 2013 "and beyond", the Brackley based team said on Thursday.

"I have every confidence that the team will provide me with a winning car," said Rosberg, who was recently linked with a switch to Ferrari.

Added team boss Ross Brawn: "We know that he is a driver who can win races and championships."

It was reported in the German press on Wednesday that Schumacher is also set to extend his current contract to include 2013.

"In Michael, Nico has the most successful racing driver in the history of the sport as his teammate, which is a perfect combination for him as well as for our team," said Mercedes-Benz's Norbert Haug on Thursday.

Force India to decide 2012 lineup before Brazil
(GMM)  Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday confirmed rumors his Force India colleagues have been asked to wait longer on the team's decision about 2012.

Boss Vijay Mallya hinted this week that, despite scheduling an earlier Abu Dhabi decision about next year's lineup, he is yet to decide which driver out of Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta will be left in the cold.

Speculation remains rife, however, that Scot di Resta will be paired alongside German Hulkenberg.

"We don't know," Hulkenberg, 24, is quoted by the SID news agency as saying in Abu Dhabi.  "The latest news is (the decision will be made) between the races."

He is referring to the forthcoming two week break between this weekend's Abu Dhabi round and the season ending Brazilian grand prix.

According to the paddock grapevine, Hulkenberg's countryman Sutil needs to be looking hard for another job.

He said on Thursday: "I am 100 per cent confident that next year I will be in F1.  It's not right (to say) that Force India will decide my future."

Sutil would not comment on his reported links with Williams, saying only: "I am assuming that my future will be clarified soon."

Banker fell in love with F1 lifestyle
A former German banker, on trial for embezzlement and bribery in a Formula One rights deal, fell in love with the sport's glamorous lifestyle and wanted to be a part of it, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone told a German court on Thursday.

Gerhard Gribkowsky, an ex-BayernLB banker, is on trial charged with selling Formula One rights in return for a bribe, with the involvement of Ecclestone.

Gribkowsky is charged with bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion in a deal that cost the bank 66 million euros ($92 million), with him pocketing about 32 million euros as part of a bribe, according to prosecutors.

"They fall in love with Formula One," the 81-year-old Briton, who runs the commercial side of the sport, said on his second day as witness in the ongoing trial.

Ecclestone said Gribkowsky was like so many other people in that way.

"He liked the lifestyle," he said, adding the banker had become his ex-wife's "drinking partner," when they met each other at races.

"He made it quite clear that he wants to leave the bank," Ecclestone said, adding Gribkowsky was pushing for further involvement in the sport after his bank sold the rights.

Ecclestone had told the court on Wednesday he had paid off the banker with millions of euros to keep him quiet and from going to British tax authorities.

The Briton said that merely a tax probe could have been "a disaster" for him and his companies and could have cost him more as much as two billion pounds. Yahoo Sports

Raikkonen rumors stalk Barrichello, Sutil in Abu Dhabi
(GMM)  Even in the cool Finn's notable absence in Abu Dhabi, two drivers are keeping a keen eye on the plans of Kimi Raikkonen.

Rumors are getting hotter with every passing day that F1's world champion of 2007 is in serious talks with Williams about returning in 2012 after a two year world rally and NASCAR hiatus.

Rubens Barrichello might be excused for bristling at the mention of the so-called 'iceman', as the talks mean the veteran is likely to travel to his native Brazil later this month without knowing if it will be his last of a record 322 grands prix.

"I might go to Brazil without any confirmation but I'm not saying goodbye to my fans," the 39-year-old said on Thursday.

"I cannot talk anything bad about Kimi, or about anyone really.  We all are in contention.  I just hope I'm the better option," added Barrichello.

He might have been also referring to Adrian Sutil, who is in the process of probably parting with Force India and hawking his experience and sponsors Medion and Capri-Sun to Williams.

Asked on Thursday about his Williams talks, the German answered: "I'm not sharing it with you."

Sutil was also coy at the mention of Raikkonen's name.

"I have no idea," he is quoted by F1's official website.

"I have heard that Kimi wants to come back, but there's also a question about whether a team wants to take the risk of bringing somebody back who was hasn't driven for two years."

Spanish fan admits to having Webber's Monza wing
(GMM)  The mystery surrounding Red Bull's disappearing front wing has unraveled in the Spanish press this week.

Before the very similar-looking and 'fluttering' Ferrari version made its debut recently, Red Bull revealed they never recovered the front wing of Mark Webber's car after his Monza crash.

Speculation suggested it had made its way straight to the design desks at Maranello.

But a Spanish fan, who attended the Italian grand prix, went some way to allaying those suspicions this week in the pages of the Marca sports daily.

He submitted photos showing pieces of the Webber wing, and revealing that other fans took home the other bits as similar carbon-fiber souvenirs.

"It never entered my head to give it to Ferrari," the unnamed fan said.  "I didn't think it was so important."

Schumacher not in future talks with Mercedes yet
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher on Thursday insisted he is not yet even talking to Mercedes about extending his contract beyond 2012.

His teammate Nico Rosberg has inked a new multiyear deal beyond 2013, and earlier this week it was reported that Schumacher is set to do the same.

But Schumacher said in Abu Dhabi when asked about the possibility of a new deal: "It's not the time to talk about it.

"Whether I want to extend my future in this sport and for how long is something I have to decide for myself in due time," the 42-year-old is quoted by SID news agency.

As for Rosberg's new deal, Schumacher described it is a "perfectly reasonable and good decision.  Frankly I would not have expected something else".

The Rosberg news, however, followed speculation he might replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari, with some reports saying he even visited Maranello recently.

"That (story) was completely out of thin air," Rosberg said in Abu Dhabi.  "At the time the new (Mercedes) contract had been made long ago."

Hamilton says Whitmarsh claim 'rubbish'
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has described as "rubbish" boss Martin Whitmarsh's claim that he has been spooked by the good form of Jenson Button this year.

McLaren principal Whitmarsh floated the Button explanation recently when contemplating Hamilton's uncharacteristically bad 2011 season.

But according to the BBC on Thursday, Briton Hamilton dismissed the theory that he has withered beneath Button's pressure as "rubbish" and suggested Whitmarsh might have been "misquoted".

"He (Whitmarsh) made some comments which I disagree with," he said.  "It's rubbish.

"My issues have been much, much bigger than that -- more personal," added Hamilton, who recently split with his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.

He admitted however that his teammate Button, 38 points and 3 places ahead in the drivers' standings, has a "great bubble" of support around him at grands prix, featuring his father, manager, friends and girlfriend.

"He's in a much stronger position than me so I wouldn't expect anything less than the results he's been getting," said Hamilton.

"I lost that (sort of) bubble.  It is a priority for me to create that atmosphere around myself because it's a happy bubble."

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