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Latest F1 news in brief - Friday
  • Swimmer Emilia Pikkarainen and Valtteri Bottas
    Ecclestone in crisis as bribery affair develops
  • Raikkonen denies Lotus rift
  • Bottas' girlfriend to swim at Olympics
  • Massa not ruling out return to Sauber
  • Schumacher real key to F1 'silly season' - Marko
  • Button to attempt return to form with Hamilton's setup

Ecclestone in crisis as bribery affair develops
(GMM)  The reinvigorated F1 bribery affair has raised questions not only about the viability of the sport's planned floatation, but about whether Bernie Ecclestone will lose his job or even face jail in Germany.

"Will Ecclestone go to Hockenheim?" the Die Welt newspaper, obviously musing a potential arrest now that former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has confirmed the F1 chief executive's payments to him were indeed bribes, wondered.

Gribkowsky faces years in jail, and so the question now is whether the Munich prosecutors will also go after 81-year-old Ecclestone.

"I'll wait and see how things develop," the Briton told Welt.  "Now I'm getting on with my job."

Prosecutor spokesman Thomas Steinkraus-Koch told Bild newspaper: "Since 2011 an investigation of Bernie Ecclestone has been underway.

"For now we are now awaiting the court's verdict in the trial of Gerhard Gribkowsky."

That judgment is expected within days.

German lawyer Sewarion Kirkitadze told Bild that Ecclestone ultimately face a prison sentence of "up to ten years".

"He should also expect the prosecutor to prepare an international arrest warrant and an extradition request."

For all the trouble, which Ecclestone said is based on Gribkowsky's new lies to "save himself", the diminutive Briton is threatening to sue.

"We will see if I take action against Gribkowsky.  It's early days, let's have a look," Ecclestone is quoted as saying by the F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.

The F1 supremo, who insisted he is "not at all" worried the affair threatens his job or the F1 floatation, told Bloomberg news agency: "I don't know what they (the prosecutors) would charge me for."

Raikkonen denies Lotus rift
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen has hit back at reports he is out of favor at Lotus.

The 2007 world champion's return to formula one this year initially went smoothly, but he has struggled more recently while newcomer teammate Romain Grosjean almost won the recent Canadian grand prix.

Not only that, there are reports his Enstone based employer is losing patience with the 32-year-old Finn's attitude, especially regarding his demands for a better steering system and a rumored rift over a rallying ban.

"I don't know where you heard that," Raikkonen told reporters at Valencia.  "Go and ask the team and you will get the truth."

Asked if he is still happy at Lotus, he insisted: "Why wouldn't I be?"

Raikkonen did admit, however, that there has been some disappointment that the promise of the E20 car has not translated into a race win yet.

"We've been so close to certain results, so certain races have been a bit disappointing, and you are disappointed when you don't win," he said.

Bottas' girlfriend to swim at Olympics
(GMM)  Valtteri Bottas was feeling proud on Thursday.

The Nordic website simma.ru reports that Emilia Pikkarainen, who is Williams reserve driver Bottas' 19-year-old girlfriend, has qualified for Finland's swimming team for the forthcoming London Olympics.

As Finland's 100 meter record-holder, she will race in the butterfly event at the end of July.

Bottas is 22 and regularly practices on Fridays for the famous British team Williams.

Massa not ruling out return to Sauber
(GMM)  Felipe Massa has not ruled out returning to Sauber next year if he is forced to leave Ferrari.

Brazilian Massa, now 31, made his debut with the Swiss team in 2002 and then returned for the 2004-5 seasons following an interlude as Ferrari's official test driver.

He moved to the famous Maranello based team to be Michael Schumacher's teammate in 2006, but high speculation this year suggests he could be replaced at the end of the season by Ferrari's top development driver Sergio Perez.

Mexican Perez's promotion would create a key vacancy at Sauber, the Swiss team with historically political links to Ferrari and a customer of the fabled Italian squad's engine, gearbox and KERS.

Fernando Alonso on Thursday revealed he will have a say on whether or not Massa is retained in 2013.

"Fernando is very respected within Ferrari because of his results so it's natural that he participates in the decision about the drivers," Massa is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo on Thursday.

"We have a good relationship, I know he supports me, but what really matters is my results," he insisted.

"That is what will make Ferrari either keep me or whether I will have to go to another team."

Massa refused to say if he has been in contact with McLaren, whose Lewis Hamilton is yet to renew his deal for 2013.

"My best option now is to get results," he answered.

Massa said recently he would rather "do something else" rather than sign with a "small" team in 2013.

Is Sauber 'small'?  Massa answered in Valencia: "Medium."

Journalist Livio Oricchio commented: "It (Sauber) could be an option, but I don't think so.

"I have great relationships with the team, we travel together on Swissair -- from what I hear, it would be surprising to see Massa there."

Schumacher real key to F1 'silly season' - Marko
(GMM)  'Silly season' is the buzzword in the Valencia paddock this weekend, but as usual in formula one, things are never as they appear.

Grabbing the big headlines on Thursday were the suggestions Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton could be on the move, and that Ferrari's number one Fernando Alonso wouldn't mind sharing F1's biggest and most famous team with either of his fellow superstars.

"Of course he is going to say that," said Hamilton, who had an acrimonious season alongside Alonso at McLaren in 2007.

"I would say the same thing, whether it was true or not."

Vettel essentially dodged reporters' numerous Ferrari-related questions on Thursday, insisting only that it would be "a pleasure to race alongside Fernando".

Surmised O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio: "Another lie."

Actually, the driver market's real action is elsewhere, with Hamilton widely expected to stay at McLaren, and Vettel at Red Bull.

"Never change a winning team," Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko told Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung when asked about the current lineup of Vettel alongside Mark Webber.

"That says it all," he revealed.

Auto Bild, meanwhile, quotes Marko as saying the chances Vettel will not still be at Red Bull at the end of 2014 are "low".

"He is looking to see what is his market value, as it is clear that he wants to be paid what he is worth."

As for the rumors swirling around Hamilton, Marko surmised plainly: "It's the usual antics, to drive up his price at McLaren.

"Actually everything depends on Schumacher," he insisted.

Marko said that if Michael Schumacher does not extend his contract at Mercedes, the driver market will suddenly explode.

Button to attempt return to form with Hamilton's setup
(GMM)  Jenson Button will begin his attempted return to form on Friday by practicing at Valencia with the basis of Lewis Hamilton's car setup.

The former world champion's 2012 form slump hit a low recently in Canada, where he was lapped by the sister McLaren.

Since then, he told reporters in the Spanish port-side F1 paddock on Thursday, "I've done a hell of a lot of laps in the simulator with this (Hamilton) setup."

The Briton, who won the season opener in Melbourne but now has just over half title-leader and Montreal winner Hamilton's points tally, said he is confident the change of direction will work for him.

"We do have a good understanding of what went wrong, but whether we've improved it for this race we'll have to wait and see," said Button.

He is refusing to write off his title chances.

"It's the strangest championship, still a lot is possible," he said.

Nonetheless, having admitted to being "confused and lost" after Canada, Button acknowledged that there is unlikely to be a silver bullet solution for his return to form.

"We do not have all the answers to all of our questions," he is quoted as saying by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Why not simply return to the settings of Australia, Malaysia and China, where he always either qualified or finished first or second?

"If only it were that simple," Button answered.  "The car has changed a lot since then."

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