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DATE News (chronologically)
09/18/12
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

09/18/12
  • Narain Karthikeyan hoping to remain in F1
    Karthikeyan still hoping for 2013 HRT seat
  • Hamilton, Schumacher are silly-season 'kings'
  • Kubica to reveal next plans 'in due course'
  • F1 return for Kubica still possible - Hakkinen
  • Alonso better than great Schumacher - Briatore
  • Worried Red Bull hope for Singapore sling
  • Bottas 'ready' for Williams race seat
  • F1 peers admit Alonso best of 2012
  • Kubica praises 'pure racing team' Lotus
  • Mateschitz wants Renault to dump alternator supplier New
  • Mercedes and Sauber lead calls for budget cap New
  • Wolff casts doubt on Senna future New

Karthikeyan still hoping for 2013 HRT seat
(GMM)  Narain Karthikeyan has repeated his desire to stay at HRT in 2013.

In July, the Indian admitted that whether he can hang on to his race seat with the back-of-the-grid Spanish team is an open question.

"Formula one is a complicated business, but I would love to remain with HRT as I am very comfortable dealing with this management," he said.

The well-funded 35-year-old debuted for Jordan in 2005, then returning to the grid in 2011 with the similarly Colin Kolles-led HRT.

Despite sitting out the last races of 2011, he is back with the now Thesan-owned HRT team, which is headed in its latest incarnation by former Minardi driver Luis Perez-Sala.

"HRT has done a lot of investment," Karthikeyan is quoted this week by the Press Trust of India.

"We have a proper headquarter, proper factory now for the first time.  We are trying to reap the benefits of these facilities for the next season with some good finishes.

"The management and I have very good rapport.  Hopefully, we can work something out.  I would like to stay at HRT.

"That's the plan and it seems good so far," he added.

Karthikeyan, who will sit out the first practice session this weekend in deference to Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua, said HRT's 2012 car will be sporting some aerodynamic upgrades in Singapore.

"How big will be the improvement, that depends when we drive in the practice sessions," he said.

He admits he has struggled to keep up with his teammate Pedro de la Rosa this season.

"From Silverstone onwards, I have been unlucky in missing practice one on Fridays while the second practice has been wet," said Karthikeyan.

"So to get one hour of practice on Saturday and then to compete against a fast guy like him is difficult and challenging."

Hamilton, Schumacher are silly-season 'kings'
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are the "kings" of the 2013 driver market, according to the headline in the Spanish sports newspaper AS.

As such, the media is hanging on their every word.

Hamilton's latest quote is that, while yet to put pen to paper for next season, he is "happy" with McLaren.

But insiders insist he is very seriously weighing-up a huge financial offer from Mercedes.

Writing for Reuters, journalist Alan Baldwin said the 2013 driver market is "stalled" until the 2008 world champion "makes up his mind".

The move would have implications all over the paddock, including at Ferrari, where some potential replacements for Felipe Massa might also be waiting to see if equal number 1 status with McLaren's Jenson Button is also an option.

Schumacher is also caught up in the drama, with some believing Hamilton has the power to push the great seven time world champion back into retirement.

But the signs are that Schumacher is staying.  Germany's Bild newspaper claims the 43-year-old's latest personal sponsor deal - with the Chinese electronic navigation company Erlinyou - is worth a staggering EUR 7.5 million.

Surely the company would not pay such a high price for a driver on the verge of slipping back into the shadows?

Asked recently if the new deal indeed indicates he is set to extend his career beyond his 44th birthday, Schumacher answered: "This has nothing to do with my future."

True or not, the F1 world may not know the answer for some time.

Britain's Sun newspaper claims Hamilton - like Schumacher - could delay his final decision until October.

Asked if 'M' stands for McLaren or Mercedes, Briton Hamilton answered: "M for McLaren at the moment."

Kubica to reveal next plans 'in due course'
(GMM)  Robert Kubica has hit back at reports he should sit back rather than risk life and limb in a rally car.

After a 19-month recuperation from horror injuries sustained during a minor Italian rally in early 2011, the Pole is finally back in action.

Despite not having the full mobility of his right arm, he won an Italian rally earlier this month, but then crashed the Subaru Impreza in a second outing last weekend.

He was not hurt, but some pundits - including a columnist for the influential Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport - are calling for the former BMW and Renault driver to call it a day.

"I was not driving dangerously," Kubica insisted to Polish television Polsat.

"The road was just dirtier than usual.  For now I'm going back to rehabilitation.  My plans for the future will become apparent in due course."

Polish sources say Kubica is planning more rally outings in the immediate future, with the company in charge of preparing Kubica's Subaru saying Kubica has instructed the damaged car be fixed.

But Kubica admitted that his F1 aspirations are on hold for now.

"At the moment I have enough to drive a rally car, but not a single seater," he is quoted by French television TF1.

Kubica is, however, refusing to close the chapter.

"I still have too many limitations to drive a car on a track," he said in an interview with Italy's Omnicorse.

"And I'm not talking about a formula one car, I mean any single seater."

Asked whether he will overcome those limitations in time, he admitted: "I don't know.  It will take a little luck and not everything depends on me.

"It may sound bad, but hope dies last.  And believing costs nothing.  I still believe, but I am also realistic.

"The road I have ahead of me is still long, with much work to do.

"It's not as if I would feel completely lost if I cannot return to F1."

F1 return for Kubica still possible - Hakkinen
(GMM)  Mika Hakkinen has revealed he thinks it is possible Robert Kubica will return to formula one.

"If he is able, he will surely find a place," the 1998 and 1999 world champion is quoted by the Polish publication Przeglad Sportowy.

"If he recovers his health, the future is open," said Hakkinen, referring to the former BMW and Renault driver who suffered serious injuries in a February 2011 rally crash.

Kubica has returned to the headlines this month, resuming his competitive career with a couple of minor Italian rally outings, featuring a win and a crash.

Hakkinen continued: "He was, and still is, a good driver.

"He is still young enough.  Can he go back (to F1?)  Sure, why not?

"Formula one is always open to talented drivers.  It is a very tough sport -- it always was, but today it is harder than ever.  Even if you are completely healthy, it is very difficult, and so if you have a problem, it's even harder."

Hakkinen knows well how to return from serious injury, having almost died in Adelaide in 1995, suffering a fractured skull and requiring a trackside emergency tracheotomy.

But "Robert is in a much worse situation than I was," Hakkinen admitted.

Alonso better than great Schumacher - Briatore
(GMM)  Flavio Briatore, who has won titles with both drivers, believes Fernando Alonso is better than Michael Schumacher.

"He (Alonso) is the best of the last 20 years," said the former Benetton and Renault boss, whose two-decade timeline would take F1 back to the Senna era.

Briatore told Italy's Sky Sport 24: "He (Alonso) is above Schumacher, but we are talking about very high levels and minimal differences.

"But Fernando makes very few mistakes, even under pressure, and his impression of the race is spectacular."

The Italian, who remains involved in the Spaniard's management (and can make more money from him if he promotes him as a god, so he would say Alonso is better, of course he would), continued: "Sometimes a team can make mistakes with strategy but he can pull it back.

"And when he's ahead, 90 per cent of the time he will win the race, even if the car is not competitive.

"He lives and breathes racing only," added Briatore, who was banned from F1 amid the 'crashgate' scandal of 2008/9.

On the 2012 season more generally, Briatore thinks Alonso can win the championship but "Ferrari has to improve the car so that Alonso can win at least one more grand prix without McLaren being second.

"There are many points, but if you're not first or second, there are only crumbs," he said.

Told that Red Bull's era of dominance is over, Briatore insisted "I don't think so", while he praised the Swiss team Sauber, who are "proof that money doesn't make the difference".

As for Romain Grosjean, who - once championed by Briatore - is emerging this weekend from an ultra-rare FIA race ban, Briatore said: "The federation did well.

"He (Grosjean) uses the car as though it's his, so he must begin to respect the work of the (Lotus) people because he causes many accidents.

"I would like to see what Alonso could do in his place," he added.

Worried Red Bull hope for Singapore sling
(GMM)  A worried Red Bull is travelling to Singapore this week, hoping a spate of alternator problems do not return under the Asian city-state's floodlights.

Sebastian Vettel and Lotus' similarly Renault-powered Romain Grosjean were halted at Valencia earlier this year, and the problem returned on Vettel's Red Bull at Monza.

Then it emerged that the Pirelli test car, fitted with a 2010 specification of the Renault alternator, struck similar problems recently, while Grosjean substitute Jerome d'Ambrosio's Lotus almost failed at Monza.

"We do not need to tell Renault Sport what to do, because they know that it's absolutely urgent," Lotus technical director James Allison is quoted by Finland's MTV3.

It's a particularly urgent crisis for Red Bull, as while the reigning champions currently lead the constructors' championship, Vettel is behind not only Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) but also Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) in the high profile drivers' chase.

"Basically, we are where we belong in the world championship," a plain-speaking Vettel is quoted by Germany's Sport1.

The Adrian Newey-penned RB8 struggled for outright speed at ultra-fast Spa and Monza, but the even bigger question for Red Bull is why the car is often fast in practice but not in the more crucial sessions.

"We have found no answer," team boss Christian Horner admitted.

Red Bull is hoping for better this weekend, under the Singapore lights.

Vettel won last year's night grand prix.

"We've been solid on street circuits this year," said Mark Webber, "so that gives us some confidence that the car will be towards the sharp end again."

Bottas 'ready' for Williams race seat
(GMM)  Valtteri Bottas has admitted he is very keen to end his reserve duties and join the formula one grid as soon as possible.

The Finn, who is managed by Williams' executive director Toto Wolff as well as Mika Hakkinen, usually replaces Bruno Senna on Friday mornings, and is tipped to step into the seat full-time next season.

Asked if he is ready for that, 22-year-old Bottas told Russia's f1news.ru: "Yes, I hope so, but at the moment the situation remains unchanged.

"I will do the Friday sessions, except in Singapore and Austin.

"As for a contract for next year, I don't know -- it's a fact," Bottas insisted.

"But this season has taught me a lot, and I feel ready now.  If I am offered the opportunity, I will of course take advantage of it.

"I think at some stage you just have to go for it, whether you are 90 or 100 per cent ready," he added.

Bottas admitted he has been in a privileged situation in 2012, having enjoyed plenty of mileage in the FW34 despite F1's tightly-controlled testing limits.

"It's really the most a young driver can expect," he said.

"But, of course, all my life I have been racing.  It was impossible for me to take part in GP2 and Friday practice at the same time.

"So if I had to select my program for this year again, undoubtedly we would have chosen the Friday practice.  Concentrating solely on formula one was the best choice."

Bottas said he is reluctant to feel sorry for Senna, who has been giving up his car in practice and then often struggling for the rest of the weekend.

"When he signed the contract," the young Finn insisted, "he knew that on Fridays I would be at the wheel of the car.

"We try to act as a team, but if I was a race driver then I probably wouldn't like it either if someone else is driving my car.  It's a normal reaction.

"This is my third year with Williams, and my role in the team has been always becoming more important.  This team has become my home and I would very much like to continue to work here."

F1 peers admit Alonso best of 2012
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso is clearly the standout driver of the 2012 season so far, two of his peers have explained.

Narain Karthikeyan, who usually brings up the rear of the field in his HRT, said the championship leader has performed above the level of the Ferrari.

"Alonso is pulling out something much more than what that Ferrari is capable of," the Indian told the PTI news agency.

"He is thinking a lot about it.  Whether is wet or dry or whatever, he is still doing a tremendous job.  In the races he knows he can't win he is (still) taking away huge chunks of points from his rivals.

"He is 37 points ahead of his closest rival Lewis (Hamilton) and it will be hard to stop him," added Karthikeyan.

Also backing Alonso for 2012 glory is his former rival and friend Robert Kubica, who has returned to the public eye after a 19-month recuperation from injury.

"It's a very interesting championship," the Pole told Italy's Omnicorse.

"It's difficult to read because the balance of power has been changing often, but there has been one driver who has made the difference with something other than the best car.

"Fernando (Alonso) showed from the first race that he has the edge over all the others, because he is maybe the only one able to make a difference even with an uncompetitive car.

"He's the favorite," said Kubica.  "He's out of this world and I don't see any big rivals for him.

"Knowing F1, we can't say that the season is decided already, but if there is no car that is much better than his, then I think Alonso is 80 per cent sure (to win)," added Kubica.

Kubica praises 'pure racing team' Lotus
(GMM)  Lotus is doing so well because it is a "pure racing team".

That is the view of Robert Kubica, the Pole who surely would have been driving this year's impressive black and gold E20.

But the 27-year-old was seriously injured in a pre-season crash prior to the 2011 championship, and he is only now getting back to some minor rallying action, albeit without the full mobility of his right arm.

Lotus chief Eric Boullier admitted recently that he no longer has any contact with Kubica, who raced for the team when it was still officially called Renault in 2010.

"I have contact with his management but nothing else," said Boullier.  "I've not been updated about his current state for a long time."

Kubica, however, has admitted to admiring Lotus from afar in 2012.

"In my first year there it was Renault, but with the Genii Capital management," he told Italy's Omnicorse in an interview.

"I was left with a (works Renault) team that no longer existed.  We started the season with the previous car and got some good results despite a significantly lower budget and a delay with the development of the car, because in the winter we didn't even know if the team would be there.

"Now I think it is starting to pay off," Kubica explained, "because already in 2010 you could see what the strengths of the team were.

"Lotus is a pure racing team, and today in F1 there are not many.  If you look at the top teams, the major manufacturers, they are difficult to manage with so many people.

"Lotus is a team with just the racing passion.  It's a big advantage," he insisted.

"Also they have a very good group of just a few people who are able to make very good single seaters.  And this year you can see that," added Kubica.

He admitted, however, that it is "strange" that Lotus has been unable to win a race so far with the very competitive E20.

"If Raikkonen could qualify higher on the grid, or Grosjean managed to keep up with Kimi during the race," said Kubica, "they would win."

So it's a driver problem?

"No, I didn't say that," insisted Kubica.

But what about Romain Grosjean's Monza ban?  Did the rookie Frenchman deserve that?

"I don't know," said Kubica, "it's not for me to judge, especially when I'm no longer part of that world.

"What I can say is that Grosjean, who is a guy I know well and is very smart, has wasted many opportunities this year.

"I'm surprised," he added.  "Probably he is suffering too much with the pressure.

"F1 is even more complex than it seems," explained Kubica.  "Believe me, it's not easy to understand when you're on the inside, let alone for those who are outside."

Mateschitz wants Renault to dump alternator supplier
(GMM)  Red Bull wants Renault to dump its alternator supplier.

The reigning champions have been dogged by a recurring reliability problem in 2012, which cost Sebastian Vettel victory at Valencia and crucial points at Monza.

The faulty component, which has also failed in other Renault-powered cars this year including the Lotus and the Pirelli test car, is the alternator supplied by Italian company Magneti Marelli.

"I want Renault to separate from its supplier Magneti Marelli and use someone else," Red Bull team boss Dietrich Mateschitz is quoted by Germany's Auto Bild Motorsport.

Renault Sport's Remi Taffin confirmed that the French marque is considering its works partner's request.

Despite a testy relationship between Red Bull and McLaren, it is believed one of the only ready alternatives to Magneti Marelli is McLaren Electronic Systems (MES).

Mercedes and Sauber lead calls for budget cap
Several F1 squads are open to the concept as they believe the sport must work much harder to ensure some teams are not priced out of existence.

FIA president Jean Todt last week warned that grid numbers would fall if costs were not reduced by 30 per cent over three years - and talks between the governing body and teams are ongoing to try and find a solution.

One idea that has gained momentum in recent discussions has been the return of a budget cap – which was first controversially proposed by former FIA president Max Mosley in 2009 but dropped following opposition from teams.

Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn says that her outfit has always been in favor of such a budget restriction, although she is well aware that it must be pitched at the right level.

"We for a while have been proposing a budget cap, which we are still convinced about because it will allow everyone to make use of their strengths," she told AUTOSPORT.

"It would be a level playing field and everyone could go the way they wanted to, which I think would make the sport very exciting.

"But we should not start at a level that is even beyond what people are doing right now. Fans want to see competition between teams, and what strategic decision you take on the development side as well as on track."

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn reckons that limits on spending are a better way forward than trying to clamp down through technical regulations.

"I think we welcome any fair and proper constraint on resources," he said, when asked by AUTOSPORT whether he felt budget caps were the most viable way to reduce costs.

"There is no attraction to spending more than you have to, to have a successful and competitive F1. Most teams on the grid are perhaps not operating to those limits, but there are five or six teams on the grid who do operate to the upper limits.

"I cannot think any of those who would not want a reduction in how much it costs to be competitive in F1, as long as it is applied fairly and as long as it is not applied with any unintentional bias towards one car over another.

"We are firm supporters of the RRA – because we think that applied is something very simple. This year is X, next year it is X minus 20 per cent and the year after it is X – 40 per cent, so it a very easy thing to pull down."

He added: "We have never demonstrated in all my years in F1 that there is any long term successful way of reducing costs through technical regulation changes, apart from the constraint on engines and gearboxes which have been fairly successful.

"If you put constraints on all those [technical] things then we are in danger of spoiling the sport, and I would certainly advocate a restraint on resources. You cannot spend more than this; you cannot have more people than this and you have to do the best job you can with what you have got. Then you still allow innovation and you still allow the spirit of F1. For me it is definitely the way to go."

Lotus boss Eric Boullier believed that a budget cap was one of only three options that F1 could adopt to control costs.

"There are three ways: budget caps, maybe a more conservative technical and sporting regulations because I am sure there are changes to be made in sporting one to save money, and the RRA.

"But what happens is going to have to suit all the teams. There is not just one way: there are three ways to make sure we can control costs in F1." Yahoo Eurosport

Wolff casts doubt on Senna future
Williams want penalty-prone Pastor Maldonado to stay with them next season but Bruno Senna's future with the Formula One team is less certain, influential shareholder and executive director Toto Wolff indicated on Tuesday.

The Austrian, increasingly cast as the eventual successor to team principal and founder Frank Williams, told the official Formula One website (www.formula1.com) ahead of Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix that a decision on drivers for 2013 was still some way off.

"We are taking different looks at the issue, but the minute we discuss it we are going to mess up Pastor and Bruno - and maybe others that we try talking to," Wolff said when asked whether Williams would stick with the same line-up.

"I would give it another month before we are going to have the first idea of what we want."

Williams have highly rated Finnish youngster Valtteri Bottas as their test and reserve driver, who also has management links to Wolff and would be a well-placed internal candidate to step up to a race seat.

Bottas has taken part in several Friday morning practice sessions this season.

Venezuelan Maldonado brings substantial sponsorship with him from his country's state oil company PDVSA and is also a race winner after his pole-to-flag victory in Spain this year, former champions Williams' first triumph since 2004.

However, he has also been involved in a spate of incidents that have led to numerous starting grid penalties and cost the team precious points.

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