Latest F1 news in brief - Friday
Prost's son to test Lotus in Abu Dhabi
|Alonso more than happy to see Hamilton also leave McLaren|
- Hamilton right to dump McLaren - Alonso
- Final Schu retirement 'years too late' - Briatore
- Kovalainen closer to new Caterham deal
- Perez says Ferrari 'happy with Massa'
- Raikkonen insists 'no agreement' for 2013
- Maldonado says 2013 plans unclear
- V6 rules could push HRT off grid - boss
- Barrichello criticism 'doesn't matter' - Senna
- Vettel tips Sauber to shine at Suzuka
- Telmex staying at Sauber after Perez switch
- McLaren also considered Force India drivers - Whitmarsh
Prost's son to test Lotus in Abu Dhabi
(GMM) Hot on the heels of Alain Prost's test in a Red Bull, it has emerged that the F1 legend's son Nicolas will drive the black and gold Lotus in Abu Dhabi next month.
The 31-year-old Frenchman, who currently races for the Lotus-linked Le Mans team Rebellion, will contest F1's final 'young driver test' of the year.
In the media statement, Lotus described Prost as its 'reserve driver', and said he will prepare for Abu Dhabi with a two-day run at the Navarra circuit in Spain.
"This is an exciting next step in my career," he said.
At the same time, however, McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh rubbished the 'young driver' test format.
"If we are honest," he is quoted by motorline.cc, "we all use it to further develop our cars.
"I haven't yet seen a so-called young driver test at which a young driver has been specifically prepared with the intention of having him racing the next year.
"We don't like to admit it, but that's the truth," said Whitmarsh.
Hamilton right to dump McLaren - Alonso
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has backed Lewis Hamilton's decision to leave McLaren.
Spaniard Alonso inked a multi-year contract with the British team ahead of the 2007 season, but he acrimoniously departed after just a single tumultuous campaign alongside the then-rookie Hamilton.
Now a Ferrari driver, he has made it clear in the subsequent years that his gripe was with McLaren, not his former teammate.
And now that Hamilton is switching to Mercedes, Alonso said the Briton has joined a prestigious list of ex-McLaren drivers who found happiness elsewhere.
"When the rumors started, I said I felt it was good for Lewis to move on and for McLaren, they have experienced this before, with Prost leaving and Senna, then me, now Lewis, normally for a better life," Alonso said at Suzuka.
"I don't think anyone has been coming back," he is quoted by Spanish reporters.
Some pundits think Hamilton has traded a surely championship-contending car for a gamble, but Alonso doesn't see it that way.
"It's 14 years since McLaren has won a constructors' championship, sometimes in years when they have had the best car and I'm sure Lewis wants to win," he said.
"I think he will enjoy (himself) more (at Mercedes)," Alonso continued.
The championship leader also denied suggestions that Hamilton's impending exit at McLaren will affect his title bid in the remaining six races of 2012.
"I think McLaren will prefer Hamilton to win than to see a Ferrari or Red Bull (win)," he is quoted by AS newspaper.
Final Schu retirement 'years too late' - Briatore
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has backed his former Benetton charge Michael Schumacher's decision to quit formula one for good.
Having taken the then young German to his first two titles, watched him become ultra-successful at Ferrari and then somewhat dent his prestige at Mercedes, Italian Briatore thinks Schumacher's is a good call not to return in 2013 with a midfield team.
"Schumacher has made a smart decision," he is quoted by German media, "although several years too late."
Some, however, think Schumacher really made no decision at all, having been ousted in favor of Lewis Hamilton and with his only real options for 2013 being Sauber or perhaps Williams.
Former driver Alex Wurz thinks it is a callous end to a great career.
"The fact that Mercedes did not wait with the announcement of Lewis Hamilton's transfer, allowing Schumi an honorable exit, shows how merciless this business is," the Austrian told Speed Week.
Kovalainen closer to new Caterham deal
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen now appears closer to staying with the Caterham team for 2013.
Recently linked with a switch to Sauber or maybe even Lotus, the Finn's management - IMG Worldwide - also appeared to have fallen out with Caterham boss Tony Fernandes.
But Kovalainen, 30, told the MTV3 broadcaster: "At the moment, we are talking about that with Caterham.
"We had a good meeting with Tony, and all the problems that were developing are now ok.
"Right at the moment I do not have any serious discussions with other teams," added Kovalainen.
He also insisted he is not worried his future might be compromised by drivers able to bring millions in sponsorship.
"I believe a good driver can always find somewhere, regardless of what some drivers are able to pay," said Kovalainen.
Asked when his plans for 2013 will be certain, he answered: "I hope before the end of the season, and possibly as early as this month."
Perez says Ferrari 'happy with Massa'
(GMM) Force India's Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg might also be candidates, but Felipe Massa sounds confident he will still be a Ferrari driver in 2013.
"Well, I think maybe," the Brazilian told reporters at Suzuka. "I don't know.
"I'm pretty confident things are going in the right direction."
Incoming McLaren driver Sergio Perez was also giving away a hint about Ferrari's plans on Thursday, explaining why - as a Ferrari 'academy' member - he was not seriously considered for Massa's seat.
"It is difficult right now," he said. "I think they are happy with Felipe. He's a very good driver, a proven driver as well. I'm not yet a proven driver.
"I am not a guarantee as Felipe is, so probably that is why I was never an option for them."
Asked by Brazil's Totalrace if Mexican Perez's comments are significant, Massa agreed: "I think it shows that Ferrari has a great interest for me to continue."
On the other hand, Perez was caught in a barefaced lie on Thursday, openly admitting to misleading the media when he recently answered "no" when asked if there were talks with McLaren.
"There had been some talks," he admitted at Suzuka, "but if at the time I'd said 'yes' then it would have been full of questions (from the media).
"So it's better to ... I wanted to keep it in low profile", added Perez.
Raikkonen insists 'no agreement' for 2013
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has kept rumors about his plans for 2013 alive by insisting he is yet to agree to stay at Lotus.
Team chiefs Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez have recently said the 2007 world champion is definitely staying in 2013, due to a contract 'option'.
At the same time, there have been signs that Lotus is an active player in the 2013 'silly season'.
And Raikkonen is now quoted by Turun Sanomat newspaper in Japan: "I don't have any agreement for next season yet."
The monosyllabic Finn was willing to give much less away about his rival's plans, including Lewis Hamilton's switch to Mercedes, and the loss of Michael Schumacher's seat.
"That has nothing to do with me and that's why I don't want to comment on anything like that which is not related to me," Raikkonen insisted.
Maldonado says 2013 plans unclear
(GMM) Once believed secure at Williams with his Barcelona win and Venezuelan dollars, Pastor Maldonado admitted at Suzuka that his plans for 2013 are unclear.
"We shall see, we shall see," he is quoted in Japan by Brazil's Totalrace.
"I don't want to talk about it now because the team is still deciding its drivers for next year and I'd rather not answer," added Maldonado, who whilst often fast has also been criticized for being involved in too many incidents this season.
"Of course I hope to be in the best possible position I can be," he said.
And Maldonado, 27, said his plans are unlikely to be known for some time.
"It is too early to talk about Williams," he insisted, "because they always wait until the end of the season."
He said he is not worried.
"It's not just about having won a race," said Maldonado. "I have gone very well, showing speed and particularly with the car that we have, which is not the best but getting better.
"It's been a very good championship. You only see the results but in terms of speed and performance, we're fine," he added.
V6 rules could push HRT off grid - boss
(GMM) HRT boss Luis Perez-Sala has expressed concerns F1's 2014 engine regulations could push small teams out of business.
"Yes," he is quoted by Autosprint magazine, "today for a team like HRT, the engine costs account for 20 per cent of our total budget.
"If this figure will double in 2014, then I do not know what we would do."
The Spaniard and former Minardi driver suggested that, to cushion the blow, small teams should be allowed to buy a customer car from a bigger team.
Barrichello criticism 'doesn't matter' - Senna
(GMM) Bruno Senna has dismissed countryman Rubens Barrichello's suggestion he would have scored twice as many points as Williams' 2012 drivers.
F1 veteran Barrichello, who was Pastor Maldonado's teammate last year but is now an IndyCar driver, was replaced by Senna for 2012.
The 40-year-old Brazilian has suggested on several occasions this year that he would be doing a better job if Williams had kept him on board.
Senna, who is fighting to keep his seat for 2013 amid rumors Williams is close to replacing him with Valtteri Bottas, said: "Everybody has the right to give an opinion."
Referring to Barrichello, he added: "I think that for him, without being on the track, it's easy to talk.
"I think if you ask everyone from the first to the last team, they would all say they could score more points.
"So it's just an opinion that doesn't matter much," Senna told Brazil's Totalrace.
Vettel tips Sauber to shine at Suzuka
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has tipped Sauber as a real dark horse at this weekend's Japanese grand prix.
The reigning world champion won last time out in Singapore with his Red Bull, but he admits that the Ferrari-powered C31 should be a standout performer in Japan.
"I believe Sauber will do very well this weekend," Vettel is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.
"They have a really great car with a lot of downforce."
Sauber's drivers agree.
"Definitely our car could be competitive here," said local driver Kamui Kobayashi in Japan.
"After Singapore, which is a little bit of a difficult circuit for us, Suzuka is our best track (so) I think it will be great."
Sergio Perez, who has finished on the podium three times in 2012 so far, told reporters: "I'm looking forward a lot to fight for the victory here.
"I think we've got a very strong car at this circuit."
Telmex staying at Sauber after Perez switch
(GMM) Telmex will continue to sponsor Sauber, despite the Swiss team losing Mexican Sergio Perez to McLaren.
Perez made his debut with the Hinwil based team last year with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's backing, primarily through the telcom Telmex's branding.
So the 22-year-old's switch to McLaren for 2013 had triggered rumors the British team also wanted Telmex to replace its reportedly flagging title sponsor Vodafone.
But Telmex is staying with Sauber, chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn announced on Friday, sparking immediate rumors the brand might push for its other Mexican charge - 21-year-old Esteban Gutierrez - to replace Perez.
Referring to Perez's switch, Kaltenborn said at Suzuka: "We were informed by Telmex about this change and Telmex also told us that they have a long-term project with Sauber which will not be affected by Sergio leaving the team."
Sauber's other driver, Kamui Kobayashi, admitted on Thursday that his future is unclear at present.
"I have no idea," said the Japanese when asked about his future.
McLaren also considered Force India drivers - Whitmarsh
(GMM) McLaren also considered Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg for the departing Lewis Hamilton's 2013 seat, team boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted on Friday.
He told British broadcaster Sky at Suzuka that, before signing Mexican Sergio Perez, the great British team looked closely at Force India's current lineup.
"Well I think (McLaren considered) Paul Di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg -- there are no real surprises there," Whitmarsh told former McLaren driver turned commentator Martin Brundle.
"They are both under contract, but both are undoubtedly available to us and I think they are both are very good drivers."
He said it was a "very close decision" to sign Perez over Scot di Resta and German Hulkenberg, who are both still linked with Felipe Massa's Ferrari seat.
"I think what we have with Sergio is someone who is perhaps less developed but has masses of talent, who doesn't make mistakes and is a very good racer," Whitmarsh explained.
"We were looking at potential and I think what we were trying to do was pick someone who was going to progress beyond where they are now. We think he will, but we don't know."