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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Returning Raikkonen left F1 too soon - manager
  • Five teams yet to confirm drivers - FIA
  • Petrov has 'plan B and C' for 2012 - manager
  • Villeneuve turned down late Wheldon's Indy drive
  • Ecclestone extends contract deadline for US GP
  • F1 'highly profitable' for engine supplier Renault
  • Maldonado seat 'pretty certain' for 2012 - Head
  • 'Mental weakness' not cause of Webber slump - Klien

Returning Raikkonen left F1 too soon - manager
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen's manager insists he is delighted the 2007 world champion has decided to return to formula one.

"He is back where he should be," said Steve Robertson, referring to the 32-year-old Finn's decision to leave world rallying and NASCAR and sign for two-years with Renault/Lotus.

"My personal opinion is that when he left F1 after 2009 he was too young and too good to be doing so.

"He still has a lot to give to the sport, and when he asked us to explore the possibilities, he was constantly pushing us forward."

The bulk of Robertson's negotiations were with Williams, he revealed.

"Everyone seems to know about our discussions with Williams," he told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat.

"They continued for many weeks but on some of the things we could not agree.  Then shortly before the Abu Dhabi grand prix we started talking with Eric Boullier.

"Both sides wanted to come to an agreement quickly," said Robertson.

Indeed, Raikkonen told the same newspaper that his first ever phone conversation with Boullier was last Monday.

"Kimi wanted to come back and so he had to act quickly, because there are few places and a lot of drivers on the market," Robertson explained.

He said the rear wing innovation 'DRS', introduced this year, will not be a problem for Raikkonen to adjust to.

"The (Pirelli) tires are a question mark, but normally Kimi needs no more than a few laps to adjust to something very quickly."

The next step for the former Ferrari and McLaren winner is a visit this week to Enstone, and then some testing.

"I can drive this year's car as long as it is on GP2 tires," said Raikkonen.  "Just a familiarization.  I don't know the schedule yet but when the new car comes I will test it."

Some predict that Raikkonen will struggle to re-adapt to F1 after two years away, but the Finn insisted: "It probably will not be so difficult.

"I drove F1 cars for a long time, and the last time was with the KERS and with a lot of buttons on the steering wheel.

"The biggest difference is the tires as it takes some time to learn how to use them the best way.  But it was more difficult when I changed from the Michelin to the Bridgestone tires.

"Now, I haven't driven on F1 tires for two years so I did not get used to something else.  In this way it will certainly be easier.

"I have talked to my friend Pedro de la Rosa and from what he told me, they (Pirelli) feel pretty good, with good grip from the outset, which for me is important," said Raikkonen.

Five teams yet to confirm drivers - FIA
(GMM)  Five formula one teams are yet to complete their driver lineups for the 2012 season, the FIA confirmed this week.

The provisional entry list for next season shows vacancies at Renault/Lotus, Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams.

And confirmation of the drivers is not the only element missing at HRT, with the presently Cosworth-powered Spanish team also yet to announce its engine supplier.

However, contrary to recent speculation, there appears no doubt about Caterham's 2012 lineup, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli both listed as confirmed for the start of the new season.

Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, has been assigned the number 9 for his return to formula one with Lotus.

Petrov has 'plan B and C' for 2012 - manager
(GMM)  Vitaly Petrov's manager has devised a "plan B and plan C" in the event the Russian has already raced his last grand prix with Renault/Lotus.

Petrov has a valid contract for next season, but his manager Oksana Kosachenko rushed to Enstone this week for urgent talks, revealing that it is possible the 27-year-old is set to leave the team.

"We have a meeting to decide what we do, whether we stay or not," she is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, confirming there is a 'plan B and plan C'.

The report said new GP2 champion Romain Grosjean is the frontrunner to be Kimi Raikkonen's teammate in 2012, with a return to the team next year for Robert Kubica considered unlikely.

Team boss Eric Boullier insisted: "We are committed to Kimi.  The second driver, we will confirm when we are ready." [Editor's Note: No Petrov and you can bet the Russian GP at Sochi in 2014 will be a failure]

Villeneuve turned down late Wheldon's Indy drive
(GMM)  Jacques Villeneuve has revealed he turned down the chance to contest the 2011 IndyCar season finale because he considered it too dangerous.

Ultimately, it was the late Dan Wheldon who accepted the series' offer to charge for $5 million in prize-money.

1997 world champion Villeneuve, who before switching to F1 was the IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner, told Auto Motor und Sport he turned down the offer to race at Las Vegas.

Referring to Wheldon's death, Villeneuve said he turned down the drive "precisely for this reason.

"If there are 34 people on a small oval then there are always going to be a couple of spinners, or rookies who are going to cause an accident.

"I have nothing against risk, but that one was too big for me," the French Canadian said on his visit last weekend to Interlagos.

"I know what it feels like to fly into a wall at 300."

Ecclestone extends contract deadline for US GP
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has extended the deadline for organizers of the 2012 US grand prix to rescue their Austin event.

The news, reported by the American news agency AP, came as the F1 chief executive's original Wednesday deadline came and went.

"We are still trying to make it (the race) happen," the 81-year-old is quoted as saying.  "They need to get some money and a pen ... as soon as possible."

The new deadline is next Wednesday's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.

"If it isn't all signed before (then), it can't happen," said Ecclestone.

Although New York will be added to the 2013 schedule, the extended deadline for Texas also follows the urging of FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh, who said F1 "needs to go to America".

"Bernie will meet the Austin people in the coming days, and I hope they get their act together," the McLaren boss is quoted by France's L'Equipe.

"If we are not there, it will hurt us all," insisted Whitmarsh.

F1 'highly profitable' for engine supplier Renault
(GMM)  French carmaker Renault is entirely happy with its involvement in formula one, despite its name finally disappearing from the teams' entry list for 2012.

The marque is now purely an engine supplier, with a close relationship with world champions Red Bull and 'customer' deals in place for 2012 with Lotus, Williams and Caterham.

Renault SA's commitment as a full works team began to waver two years ago, but new chief operating officer Carlos Tavares now insists F1 is "highly profitable" for the manufacturer.

"It costs us a net investment amount of two digits (in millions of euros)," he is quoted as saying by the French website 20minutes.fr.

"A long time ago I gave up the idea of making calculations on the profitability of F1, because this is an investment that is highly profitable."

Tavares also said he is happy with F1's new direction for 2014, with the current V8s being replaced by turbo V6 engines.

Maldonado seat 'pretty certain' for 2012 - Head
(GMM)  Team co-founder Patrick Head is "pretty certain" Pastor Maldonado will stay with Williams for a second season in 2012.

The Venezuelan's seat was until recently considered secure due to his lucrative backing by the state-owned oil company PDVSA.

But that money is now in doubt, with the Venezuelan parliament looking into whether the Williams deal went through the necessary approval processes.

So when the provisional 2012 entry list was published by the FIA on Wednesday, Maldonado's name was missing.

"It's not something that I can talk about," Head said in Brazil last weekend, "but I think that the PDVSA situation is stable, from what I gather.

"I'm sure there will probably be something in the press about it coming up, but from what I understand it's stable," he is quoted by the online magazine GP Week.

"I can be pretty certain that Pastor will be in the team next year."

As for the seat alongside Maldonado, recent contender Kimi Raikkonen has now signed for Renault/Lotus, leaving Rubens Barrichello, Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas - and possibly Dutchman Giedo van der Garde - at the top of the list.

"One wants a mixture of speed, experience, leadership in a way, good feedback ... all those things," said Head.

"Fundamentally, our problem is the car.  We're not really debating whether one person is two tenths a lap quicker than another person.

"When you're 2.5s behind, yes, we've got to have the best we can in the cockpit, but fundamentally the big challenge is to get the car sorted out."

'Mental weakness' not cause of Webber slump - Klien
(GMM)  Mark Webber's former teammate insists he is "100 per cent sure" the gritty Australian did not suffer from "mental weakness" in his battle alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2011.

Last year, 35-year-old Webber almost beat his young Red Bull teammate to the title, but in 2011 he won only a single race compared to Vettel's dominant eleven.

"The brain controls the body, not the other way around," David Coulthard, referring to Webber's struggle alongside Vettel, said recently.

But another former Webber teammate, Christian Klien, disagrees with that theory.

"It is 100 per cent sure that he has no mental weakness," the Austrian, who was Webber's teammate at Jaguar in 2004, said on Austrian Servus TV.

"I've known him for several years and he has a very strong personality.  He had a fantastic 2010 and started this year with a lot of confidence.

"His problems have been about anything but that," insisted Klien.

Klien, also a former Red Bull and HRT driver and a test driver with Honda and BMW, said he thinks Webber's main issue was the Pirelli tires.

Similarly, he thinks Fernando Alonso's only problem in 2011 was the Ferrari car.

"He's definitely the most complete driver in the field," said Klien, referring to the Spaniard.

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