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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday UPDATE
Vettel (top) thinks Raikkonen will struggle to return
Updates shown in red below.

  • Vettel - F1 return to be difficult for Raikkonen
  • Hopefuls Barrichello, Sutil, play down impact of Raikkonen news
  • Red Bull says 'no' to Vettel motorcycle swap
  • Barcelona race in doubt for future - Ecclestone
  • Ecclestone happy with HRT's new direction
  • Whitmarsh says Formula 1 must take America by storm New
  • Boullier: We convinced Raikkonen to return New

Vettel - F1 return to be difficult for Raikkonen
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has admitted it is "difficult to judge" whether his friend Kimi Raikkonen will be at full speed when he returns to formula one next season.

The pair often meet near their Swiss homes to play badminton, but reigning world champion Vettel does not want to predict a smooth comeback for the 2007 world champion after two years in world rally.

"We have all seen Michael's comeback," the 24-year-old is quoted by France's 20minutes.fr on a visit to Red Bull's engine supplier Renault.

"He (Schumacher) left when he was at the top, but when he came back he said a lot had changed and that he needed time to adapt.

"If I think about the car I drove two years ago, so many things have changed," said Vettel.  "It's amazing.  Even during a season, new buttons appear on the steering wheel.

"I can imagine it would be very difficult to return straight away to the same level as before," added the German.

Renault/Lotus boss Eric Boullier revealed on Tuesday that Raikkonen will soon be able to use the team's new driver simulator, and get some laps under his belt in a two-year-old "demo car" before real testing begins in February.

But the former McLaren and Ferrari driver insisted on Tuesday that while his neck may be out of shape, his motivation is back at full power.

Britain's Guardian wrote: "If he got fed up with driving a Ferrari ... what will happen at Renault, a midfield outfit who are unlikely to be challenging the top teams next year?"

Mercedes' Norbert Haug is quoted in German reports: "I look forward to seeing Kimi back if he is motivated, and that seems to be the case."

Hopefuls Barrichello, Sutil, play down impact of Raikkonen news
(GMM)  Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil have both played down the impact on their own futures of Renault's signing of Kimi Raikkonen.

Both Barrichello and Sutil, who are danger of losing their Williams and Force India seats respectively, were believed to be eyeing a vacancy at Renault for 2012.

"I am not reading anything this week since there's so much gossip," Brazil's Globo quoted Barrichello as saying.

"My wife called me to say 'Just so you know, Kimi has signed (for Renault)'," the 39-year-old explained.

"I think it caught many people by surprise and me as well, but I have always said that my best chance is Williams.  So my situation remains the same.

"I'm happy with what is happening to me.  I appreciate the friendship of Felipe (Massa) but I want to be there next year, so this time I am listening only to Schumacher," he laughed.

Another driver who reportedly considered Renault an option for 2012 was Sutil, but - like Barrichello - the German's manager played down the impact of the Raikkonen news.

"Since I guessed it already, it does not directly affect our future," Manfred Zimmermann is quoted by DPA news agency.

Red Bull says 'no' to Vettel motorcycle swap
(GMM)  Red Bull has banned Sebastian Vettel from taking part in a demonstration 'swap' with fellow German and new Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl.

"I would gladly try a formula one single seater," 22-year-old rider Bradl is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, "and Sebastian could get on my bike.

"Yes, the change would be harder for him than for me."

But Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko answered with a clear "no".

"Not under any circumstances," said the Austrian.  "The danger that Sebastian could get hurt on a bike is too great."

Germany's Bild newspaper reported that, behind the scenes, Vettel was keen.

But he said on the record: "If you have a little slide, the car runs off.  On a bike, you fall right off."

Barcelona race in doubt for future - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has admitted Barcelona might be the first casualty as F1's annual calendar sheds some European races.

The F1 chief executive told Spanish sports newspaper Marca that the continent's dwindling presence on the schedule could drop to as few as just five rounds per season within the next few years.

Currently, there are two races - Valencia and Barcelona - in Spain.

Asked if that is sustainable, Ecclestone answered: "I don't know, we will have to wait and see.

"I think not, but we'll see.

"In Barcelona they complain that it is difficult for them to balance their accounts."

Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya has hosted the annual Spanish grand prix since 1991.

The event has a contract until 2013 and Ecclestone said it will be honored.

"Yes, we have a contract in force so it depends whether Barcelona want to keep going or not," he said.

Ecclestone happy with HRT's new direction
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is happy that HRT, the back of the grid Spanish team, appears to have turned a corner.

Last year, the F1 chief executive described the team and fellow straggler Virgin as "cripples" that have been "an embarrassment" that the sport needed to "get rid of".

A year on, HRT has new owners in the form of Thesen Capital and is working towards building a more Spanish identity and a permanent base.

McLaren's highly experienced Pedro de la Rosa has been signed for the next two seasons, the gearbox deal with Williams has been extended, and a new Toyota link has emerged.

The BBC reported last weekend that the team is set to begin working with a Cologne company that is co-owned by Caterham's Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne.

"It's effectively the design office of the former Toyota team", reported assistant editor Andrew Benson.

All the developments have been received as good news by Ecclestone.

"Yes, I have to say I am very happy with the direction being taken now," he told Spanish sports newspaper Marca.

"It has changed, it's a good project with the right steps being taken.  They may start to be a good team to give joy to the Spanish fans," added the 81-year-old Briton.

Martin Whitmarsh says Formula 1 must take America by storm
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh believes Formula 1 must do all it can to "take America by storm" despite doubts about the Austin Grand Prix.

Formula 1 is scheduled to return to the United States next year, but doubts surround plans to build a grand prix circuit in Austin, Texas, with organizers having admitted they are willing to delay the debut until 2013.

Bernie Ecclestone has also struck a deal with New Jersey to join the calendar from the 2013 season.

Whitmarsh is still hopeful Austin can go ahead, because he insists it is vital for Formula 1 to succeed in North America.

"I think we need to make a success of North America," said Whitmarsh. "I hope, and I don't honestly know, I hope it is negotiation and posturing and only Bernie knows what is going on there.

"Bernie I hope, who is meeting them in the next few days, I hope they can come to an accommodation. America is the land of the automobile, you have NASCAR in the south, but F1 should really take America by storm.

"We should be committing to it, we should have a five-year program so we can really develop F1. There is an appetite there I am convinced and we should make a massive success there." More at Autosport

Boullier: We convinced Raikkonen to return
Lotus Renault GP successfully persuaded Kimi Raikkonen to return to Formula 1 in 2012, according to Team Principal Eric Boullier. The Finn, World Champion of 2007, will be making his comeback following a two-year sabbatical.

Raikkonen entered F1 with Sauber ten years ago before enjoying race-winning stints with both McLaren and Ferrari, challenging for the title in 2003 and 2005 before finally clinching the crown in 2007. He was replaced by Ferrari despite one season remaining on his contract and has spent the past two years in WRC and NASCAR.

“Strategically, it is good to have a big name, a high class driver and F1 World Champion joining us,” says Boullier. “He is committed to racing for us and he is definitely a very good character, with the experience he has from driving for McLaren and Ferrari. Also, to have someone like Kimi signing with us shows that the package we have offered was good enough - we convinced Kimi to come back to Formula 1!”

Furthermore, Boullier is confident that Raikkonen’s preparation will be strong.

“First of all, in not so long we will have our simulator ready – this is good news for him and for us,” the Frenchman continues. “I think that we will also be able to plan a couple of days with the demo car. There are many things that the team will announce soon, in the coming weeks and the coming months.

“Let’s not forget that the team’s current identity is only a couple of years old and it is clear that we have made some strategic investments like the wind tunnel, like the CFD pole and like the building of the simulator– it will be a state of the art simulator.”

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