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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday
  • Alonso
    Alonso 'like Schumacher' except salary - Domenicali
  • No 'emotion' in talks over 2013 deal - Schumacher
  • McLaren and Red Bull fastest in qualifying, race in 2012
  • Schumacher, Raikkonen could be F1's eighth winner
  • Ex F1 driver Tomas Enge fails another drug test
  • Mercedes changes part after Schumacher problem
  • F1 continues to expand its pay-TV reach

Alonso 'like Schumacher' except salary - Domenicali
(GMM) Stefano Domenicali has likened the contribution of Fernando Alonso at Ferrari to that of Michael Schumacher's in the past, but slammed suggestions their earning power is also comparable.

"He is flawless and accurate in working with his engineers, and a reference for the whole team," the Maranello marque's team boss, referring to Spaniard Alonso, told EFE news agency.

"He has much in common with Michael from the professional point of view. He is very, very good," Domenicali insisted.

"We cannot ask for more. His level of competition is fantastic, like his attitude."

Domenicali admitted he was instrumental in bringing Alonso to Ferrari from Renault at the end of 2009, when Kimi Raikkonen was ousted.

"Yes, absolutely," the Italian said.

As for reports Alonso earns upwards of EUR 30 million, however, Domenicali's mood changed.

In Ferrari's ultra-successful past, the famous marque paid similarly staggering sums to Schumacher, but Domenicali insisted those days are over.

"I read about Fernando's salary and (the report) was utterly ridiculous and wrong. It in no way corresponds with the level of investment by Ferrari in the sport.

"It's easy to talk about money, but people can be very misleading and sometimes it's on purpose," he said.

Domenicali's obvious anger on the subject comes as Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo recently called on the FIA to impose immediate and drastic measures to reduce costs amid the worsening European crisis.

"The president's plea," wrote Kevin Eason in the Times newspaper, "will be greeted with a certain amount of skepticism in the paddock".

The journalist said Ferrari is set to be the "biggest winner" in the new Concorde Agreement because it is "in line for the lion's share of payments".

And the bosses of struggling smaller teams, Eason argued, "will take the entreaty by the president of a team that has spent hundreds of millions of pounds to win championships over the past 20 years with a pinch of salt".

No 'emotion' in talks over 2013 deal - Schumacher
(GMM) Mercedes has tweaked the design of its rear wing 'DRS' system following Michael Schumacher's latest technical glitch in Canada.

Team boss Ross Brawn revealed that the redesign was done despite the fact it was a one-off failure on a "very well proven part".

Regarding Schumacher's mysterious run of technical problems, the German squad is under immense pressure at a sensitive time, as the seven time world champion's contract is expiring.

"I don't believe in fate, but it has been peculiar," Brawn admitted.

The situation surrounding Schumacher's race seat is also intriguing, given that the cockpit is regarded as perhaps the only realistic alternative for Lewis Hamilton, who is still arguing about money with McLaren.

But 43-year-old Schumacher insisted the technical problems will not influence his talks with Mercedes about 2013.

"I will certainly not be driven by emotion regarding my future in formula one," he told the Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell.

"That applies in both the negative and positive sense."

He joked that at times in 2012 he has felt like Mercedes' "test driver", but insisted he maintains his faith in the Brackley based team and "will not just give up".

Schumacher has just 2 points on the board in 2012 but he thinks his performance in a silver car has never been better.

"Since mid 2011 I have been on a par with Nico (Rosberg) in the race and now and then even better," he insisted.

But the great German also confirmed that his future is unclear.

"If the team and I believe that all the important factors are in order, we will be talking about a further cooperation," he said.

Boss Norbert Haug insisted: "There is no time pressure and we will talk with Michael first of all."

McLaren and Red Bull fastest in qualifying, race in 2012
(GMM) 2012 has been described as 'topsy-turvy' and a 'lottery' that has ended the domination of formula one's usual greats.

But according to a detailed analysis by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, F1's old guard is still at the very top of the timesheets.

The analysis shows that McLaren and Red Bull, respectively, have been the best teams overall when it comes to pace in the all-out 'Q2' qualifying segment, and the actual grands prix.

The second best team in qualifying, however, has been Mercedes, whose average Q2 lap time is less than two hundredths of a second slower than the leading MP4-27.

Another few hundredths back, the third best average Q2 lap time belongs to Lotus, followed by 2011 qualifying dominator, Red Bull.

Fifth, sixth and seventh in the Q2 analysis are Ferrari, Williams and Sauber, with all of the top seven teams separated by a mere four tenths.

Red Bull has been more than a tenth adrift in qualifying, but according to Auto Motor und Sport's analysis, the reigning champions have had the best overall race pace.

The second-best team on race pace has been Sauber, with a cumulative average lap time over the seven grands prix so far less than a tenth slower than the leading Red Bull.

Lotus trails by a couple of tenths in third place.

The major surprise of the race-pace analysis is Toro Rosso: only half a second adrift big-brother Red Bull and ahead even of the 'qualifying champions' McLaren.

The result is in stark contrast to the Faenza based team's qualifying performances, with the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso better only than the bottom-three stragglers on Saturdays.

Another big surprise in terms of race-pace is Mercedes, who despite Shanghai winner Nico Rosberg's claim that the W03 is the very fastest car in 2012, ranks only ahead of Caterham, Marussia and HRT in the grands prix.

"Not even traffic and Michael Schumacher's many problems can explain" Mercedes' almost one second per lap deficit, the analysis written by journalist Michael Schmidt said.

Schumacher, Raikkonen could be F1's eighth winner
(GMM) Michael Schumacher did not become F1's seventh winner of 2012 in Canada, but his boss Ross Brawn is hoping Valencia is a case of 'lucky eight' for the seven time world champion.

Brawn, Mercedes' team principal, admitted it is possible the sport's unprecedented run of new and different winners this season could continue on Spanish streets this weekend.

"I'm thinking of Michael in our car," said the Briton, "but the Lotus is good and they haven't won, while Sauber have put in some great results too."

Pirelli has been either credited or blamed for the results 'lottery' so far this year, and the tire marque's Paul Hembery also tipped Schumacher as the potential eighth winner.

"He probably would have won at Monaco, so why not here?" the Pirelli motor sport director is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport ahead of the European grand prix.

Another hot favorite is Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, although his teammate Romain Grosjean has been at least as impressive as the 2007 world champion.

"I've never won in Valencia," said Finn Raikkonen, "so it's a good target."

Fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen agreed that a bet on Lotus would be well placed.

"Yes, Lotus have been in good shape but so far they just haven't quite put everything together," the Caterham driver told the broadcaster MTV3.

"Romain Grosjean has driven well so he is definitely putting up a good fight to Kimi," added Kovalainen.

He also tipped Schumacher as a potential 2012 race winner.

"He has been quite fast in many places, but very unlucky on the technical side -- he has had six or seven different problems," noted Kovalainen.

The great German is therefore surely out of the running for the title, but there remains a swathe of candidates within a handful of points or a victory or two of true contention.

"This championship is going to be won on consistency and it's easily possible that the world champion will only have one or two race wins," admitted Sam Michael, the sporting director at title leader Lewis Hamilton's McLaren team.

"You won't need to win five or six grands prix to win this year's world championship," he is quoted by Sky Sports.

Boss Martin Whitmarsh agrees: "Whereas in previous years there was an emphasis on the 'big' results, this year it seems that minor points placings could provide a decisive edge in the title battle."

Ex F1 driver Tomas Enge fails another drug test
(GMM) Tomas Enge, the only F1 driver to have ever failed a drugs test, has been suspended from racing.

The now 35-year-old Czech, who in 2002 was stripped of his international Formula 3000 (GP2) title, on Tuesday confirmed he has once again failed a drugs test.

Enge, whose first failed drugs test was for cannabis, had returned to F3000 in 2002 after racing three times for the Prost team, which folded at the end of the 2001 season.

He has been racing a Lamborghini this year in the FIA's GT1 sports car world championship.

Enge wrote on his Facebook page that the latest failed drugs test, for an unspecified substance but "not" the active cannabis agent THC, had left him "in shock".

He admitted that the 2002 cannabis charge had a "significant effect" on his career.

"That's why ever since I have been almost paranoid" about accidentally consuming banned substances, Enge explained.

"This is a shock, as I would never knowingly take any banned substance. I have suffered from long-term health problems which is why I recently asked the FIA for an exemption to use drugs that are on the list of prohibited substances.

"Now I need to consult with expert doctors as to how this situation has occurred."

In 2007, the FIA banned GT driver Luca Moro for two years for alleged cocaine use.

Mercedes changes part after Schumacher problem
Mercedes is set to change the component of its DRS which caused Michael Schumacher’s retirement from the Canadian Grand Prix. The seven-time World Champion suffered a rare issue which allowed his adjustable rear wing flap to become stuck open, resulting in his fifth retirement from the seven races so far in 2012.

Oddly, although four of Schumacher’s race exits have been down to technical problems, team-mate Nico Rosberg has enjoyed 100 percent reliability so far this season.

“The problem was a hydraulic coupling,” Team Principal Ross Brawn explains of Schumacher in Montreal. “They have a locking system and the locking system seemed to have fatigued and allowed the coupling to come undone. It’s not a problem we’ve seen before and we’re going to change the design to make sure there is less likelihood of it happening.

“I think the lack of reliability with Michael has been a huge frustration to everyone here because our standards are extremely high. We haven’t changed any of our procedures’ or approach, haven’t taken any shortcuts and haven’t let the system slip in any way whatsoever, so it’s been highly frustrating that we’ve had the problems.

“Whilst I don’t believe in fate too much, it’s been peculiar that we’ve had one car that’s done every lap of every race, and then with Michael we’ve had three or four problems.”

Brawn now hopes to see Schumacher become the eighth winner from as many races, which would also mark his first points finish on the Valencia Street Circuit this weekend.

F1 continues to expand its pay-TV reach
The Formula One group continues to expand in pay TV. Following the example of the International Olympic Committee, the commercial-rights holder of Formula One racing has begun actively selling rights to Grand Prix events to pay-TV companies alongside free-to-air broadcasters on a national basis.

For this season, in the United Kingdom, Sky secured a seven-year deal to cover 11 races live while sharing the other nine with the BBC, the nation's public-service broadcaster. Now Formula One has concluded a similar arrangement in Italy involving Sky Italia and RAI.

Formula One does not comment on its commercial contracts, but unconfirmed reports suggest that Sky Italia is paying approximately $100 million (U.S.) annually for the new contract. If so, this is almost double the fee that has been paid hitherto by RAI, the national broadcaster, whose costs will now be reduced in line with its reduced coverage.

Formula One has had to get specific agreement on these deals from all the teams because, to ensure viewing figures that satisfy their sponsors, it has long been enshrined in the Concorde Agreement that free-to-air takes priority over pay TV. It is understood that the relevant clauses will be revised in the new Concorde Agreement, which is due on Jan. 1, 2013. AutoWeek

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