F1 news in brief - Tuesday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
|Berger says Ferrari could do better than Massa|
- Berger urges Ferrari to dump Massa
- Lotus sidelines 'double DRS' for now
- Grosjean's career not in danger 'for now' - Boullier
- Danner tells Lauda to fire Mercedes staff
- Hamilton concedes title now 'two horse race'
- Montezemolo to call Alonso after Suzuka
- Austin officials map out plan to move 120,000 to track New
- City Council to take up annexing Circuit of the Americas New
- Grosjean named most dangerous man in F1 New
Berger urges Ferrari to dump Massa
(GMM) Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger thinks the great Italian team should drop Felipe Massa.
However, after the Brazilian at Suzuka finally returned to the podium after a two-year absence, all the signs are that Ferrari is set to sign his 2013 contract.
Austrian Berger is perplexed.
"This makes no sense," he told Germany's Auto Bild. "It's never just about one race.
"I would put Hulkenberg or di Resta in his place. They are young and fast -- exactly what Ferrari needs to fight for the constructors' title," added Berger.
Ferrari apparently does not agree.
One team insider told Auto Motor und Sport: "Among the young guys we see nobody about whom we can say 'We must have him'."
Indeed, Massa, 31, is putting out the message that his future is now safe.
"The conversation we have been having until now has been that it (a new contract) should happen," he told Portuguese-language media at Suzuka on Sunday.
"I'm hoping it will be confirmed as soon as possible."
Team boss Stefano Domenicali is also on message: "We will make an announcement soon," he is quoted by Italy's La Stampa.
If and when the news is confirmed, it will mean the seats at all of the top teams are essentially in place, with the rest of the 2013 grid to then follow suit.
Ferrari-powered Sauber, tipped to re-sign Japanese Kamui Kobayashi after his hugely-popular Suzuka podium, has announced it will settle its 2013 lineup before November's finale.
And chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn also hinted about Massa's future, suggesting speculation the Brazilian could return to Sauber if he is dropped by Ferrari is wide of the mark.
"It (Sauber's decision) has, for a change, nothing to do with Ferrari," she is quoted by the Sun.
Ferrari is expected to announce the Massa news either immediately before or immediately after this weekend's Korean grand prix.
"This second place (in Japan) is a very important result in a decisive moment for him," Domenicali is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.
Asked if that means Massa is staying in 2013, he added: "Let's not take a second step before we've taken the first."
Lotus sidelines 'double DRS' for now
(GMM) Lotus has sidelined its 'double DRS' system for now.
While Red Bull quickly got its similar concept up and running to great effect with wins in Singapore and Japan, Lotus has been trying for several grands prix to fine-tune its version.
The Enstone based team intended to finally debut it at Suzuka, but engineers failed to get it working properly in free practice.
"It hasn't been easy," technical director James Allison is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
"It's been harder than expected to get it to switch correctly with the limited testing time.
"We will put it aside for now, have a think about it and bring it out again in the young drivers test in Abu Dhabi," he added.
In the meantime, Lotus is ready to test a Mercedes-style 'Coanda' exhaust layout this weekend in Korea, the German magazine reported.
Allison confirmed: "Since the launch of the E20 we have always been working on a Coanda exhaust in the wind tunnel.
"As we have seen that the benefits are greater than our current system, it was clear that we needed to implement it."
Grosjean's career not in danger 'for now' - Boullier
(GMM) Eric Boullier was vague when asked if Romain Grosjean's constant first-lap crashes have endangered his future in formula one.
"Not for now," said the Lotus team boss, who doubles as the head of the Gravity company that manages the beleaguered Frenchman's career.
After his Monza race ban, Grosjean was back in trouble at Suzuka when he incurred the furious Mark Webber's wrath for yet another first-corner crash.
"Maybe we need two separate starts -- one for him, one for us," the Australian, having earlier slammed Grosjean as a "nutcase", told the BBC.
Pundits up and down the paddock have called on the FIA to get race bans at the ready once again for Grosjean, who was close to tears when he spoke to reporters in Japan.
The French-language RMC wondered if Grosjean's entire career could be in peril.
For now, Boullier is defending his driver.
"Even Schumacher had a lot of crashes at the start of his career," he said. "But everyone in the team is frustrated, me included."
The RMC Sport report said Grosjean should be able to hang on to his seat for 2013, given that Lotus' most important sponsor, Total, also staunchly backs the 2011 GP2 champion.
The report also said Lotus' contract 'option' to retain Grosjean in 2013 expires the day after Sunday's Korean grand prix.
"Before Japan, there was no doubt that this clause would be effected," the report read.
Now, the priority is simply to get Grosjean back on track.
"You can change anything you want in the environment around him, but in the end it is he who must learn to control the pressure," said Boullier.
And that pressure has ramped up to fever-pitch in the mere days before Grosjean must make yet another race-start.
"He has a lot of talent and could achieve great things," French former F1 driver Olivier Panis said. "But it's not going to pay off in the long term if he keeps behaving like that."
British Sky television commentator Martin Brundle added: "His judgment is clearly wrong in close combat and I don't know what he can do about it.
"You can't consciously start making decisions (at the start of a race). And then when you start getting tense about that, it's all the more likely to happen."
Danner tells Lauda to fire Mercedes staff
(GMM) A German F1 pundit has advised Niki Lauda to take an axe to Mercedes' current personnel lineup.
Lauda, the great Austrian triple world champion, has been signed on as Mercedes' non-executive chairman -- effectively a decision-making link between the German marque's Stuttgart headquarters and the racing team in the UK.
So far, he has negotiated Mercedes' new Concorde Agreement deal and lured Lewis Hamilton onto the team for 2013.
RTL commentator Christian Danner, a former driver, now wants Lauda to sack staff.
"The people who built this car should really all be fired," he told Bild newspaper.
"It can't be that you drive all around the world for nine months only to find that your car is as fast as a Toro Rosso," added Danner.
Danner said it is now up to Lauda to put things right.
"He is responsible to make the next decisions. And those decisions will primarily be about the personnel."
Hamilton concedes title now 'two horse race'
(GMM) McLaren's drivers have conceded that they are effectively now out of the chase for the world championship.
After Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won in Suzuka with title leader Fernando Alonso out at the first corner, pundits up and down the pitlane agreed that the pair will now have a head-to-head battle for the championship over the last five races of 2012.
Mathematically, however, there are still plenty of contenders, including Lewis Hamilton who is 42 points behind.
But, referring to Vettel and Ferrari's Alonso, the departing McLaren driver said after Suzuka: "Anything can happen but at the moment it kind of is a two-horse race."
When told about Hamilton's comments, teammate Jenson Button admitted it "looks that way".
Even McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh acknowledged: "He (Alonso) is under pressure, more pressure frankly from Sebastian than from us but we have closed that gap and we have five races to go."
His Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner also said Alonso and Vettel are the favorites, adding: "You can't rule out the others but whoever does the best job over the next five races will ultimately prevail."
It may be a two-horse race, and Alonso may still be leading by 4 points, but most pundits believe Vettel is now the favorite, given the superiority of his car in Japan.
"It seems," wrote O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio, "that we are witnessing a repeat of the 2010 championship.
"The difference is that Vettel is more mature now and the gap to Alonso is only 4 points. In 2010, five races to the end, Vettel was fifth, 24 points behind the leader."
The disappointed Alonso said before leaving Japan that, "If the enemy thinks of the mountains, attack by sea; and if he thinks of the sea, attack by the mountains."
Originally, they were the words of a 17th century Japanese warrior, to which El Confidencial journalist Javier Rubio replied: "Yes, but to attack by the sea, you need a boat."
He is referring to Ferrari's flagging fortunes with the F2012, with Italy's authoritative La Gazzetta dello Sport agreeing that Red Bull's dominance in Japan was "scary".
"One can only hope that the championship for Ferrari is not already lost," the sports daily added.
A survey in the Spanish sports newspaper Marca showed that, of the 4,700 voters, 47.7 per cent believe Alonso will win the title, compared to 47.1pc for Vettel.
Only 3.6 voted for Kimi Raikkonen, with Lewis Hamilton attracting 1.6pc.
Montezemolo to call Alonso after Suzuka
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has said that he will be telephoning Fernando Alonso following the Spaniard’s retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix. As closest rival Sebastian Vettel won the race, the reigning double World Champion now sits just four points behind at the top of the championship table.
At Suzuka on Sunday, Alonso spun out of contention at the second corner following contact with Kimi Räikkönen which caused a puncture. The result bore a strong resemblance to the Belgian Grand Prix, when he also retired right after the start.
“It’s at times like these that I want to see the Ferrari I know: A team that is focused and that holds its nerve,” Montezemolo says on the Ferrari website. “I will speak to Fernando by phone soon to give him even more motivation with which to tackle these last five races, with the bit between his teeth, as indeed I expect all the team to do.
“We know we can count on the strongest driver around at the moment and it’s only mistakes from others at Spa and again at Suzuka that have prevented him from having a more comfortable lead over his rivals. Let’s not forget that, but for those two collisions, today Fernando would have had at least 30 points more and that’s a conservative estimate.
“In sport, as in life, the wheel turns and we must not forget that recently it has not done so in a positive way for us, but it does not take much for it to change direction.”
Montezemolo also took the opportunity to congratulate Felipe Massa on second position, which marked his first Formula 1 podium finish since Korea 2010.
Austin officials map out plan to move 120,000 to track
One-time forecasts for gridlock and 12-hour traffic delays getting to Austin’s inaugural Formula One race have become rosier. Much rosier.
Less than two months before race weekend, Circuit of the Americas officials now say those arriving by shuttle bus — nearly half of the expected 120,000 ticket holders — should expect a pick-up-to-drop-off travel time of 40 minutes or less.
The improved picture is the result of road improvements near the track that will increase capacity, as well as a choreographed shuttle bus plan that involves 450 buses hired by the circuit.
Shuttle passengers will get to the track in southeastern Travis County in 40 minutes from the downtown stop, race officials estimate, and in about 30 minutes from a depot at the Travis County Exposition Center. The trip from a small shuttle stop at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport — the lot has just 1,800 spaces and, at $30 for all three days of the race, is already sold out — will take just 15 minutes, officials said.
Officials caution, however, that getting to those stops in the first place could take longer than the trip itself, and those estimates don’t include waiting or loading time.
Those free-to-ride buses, along with taxi cabs and limousines, likely will carry about half of the race fans during the Nov. 16-18 race weekend, officials said. The other half, they predict, will descend on the track in a variety of ways: personal autos, private charter buses, helicopters, bicycles (although cyclists will have to be shuttled in buses after pedaling to Richard Moya Park, about two miles from the track) and recreational vehicles.
“Every mode of transportation, outside of walking and boats, we pretty much have,” said David Sweazy, vice president of operations for the circuit.
Parking at the track will be limited, with just 17,000 spaces, for those who buy premium race tickets or pay $200 for a three-day parking pass. A few hundred of those passes are still available, officials said.
Capital Metro, meanwhile, is making its own adjustments to deal with an expected influx of race fans, curious Austinites and free-range partiers into what could be history-making congestion downtown with 28 blocks closed to traffic that week. That will include a temporary free shuttle bus route tracing a jagged polygon in the city’s core, and extended MetroRail service, starting earlier on Saturday and running Sunday when there is normally no train service.
The city’s taxi industry is bracing for a wild weekend as well.
Circuit officials now project that 40,000 to 50,000 race fans will attend Friday’s practice sessions, 60,000 to 80,000 on Saturday during qualifying, and 110,000 to 120,000 for Sunday’s race.
But despite having mostly sold out the tickets, officials say those attendance estimates, as well as numerous other projections related to the overall transportation effort, are just educated guesses at this point.
“Those patterns are mostly from Europe,” said Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of the Americas. “We’ve had a lot of media coverage in Austin, and people want to come see us. But you really don’t know. We’re going to find out.”
The three shuttle stops revealed so far — Sexton said two additional, unnamed locations are still under consideration — have almost 33,000 parking spaces, two-thirds of them at the Expo Center where the spaces will be free of charge. There will be roughly 6,000 fewer spaces on Friday, when most of the state parking garages near the Trinity Street shuttle stop will be occupied by state workers.
State officials said recently they’ll likely charge at least $15 a day to park in those garages.
Officials said there are more than enough spaces for all three days. They estimate that vehicles heading to the parking spaces, on average, will carry 2.5 occupants each, which if true would amount to more than 80,000 people. Beyond that, many of those using the downtown shuttles stop could walk from nearby hotels or offices, or be dropped off there by taxis or friends.
The shuttles will begin running at 7 a.m. each day, 30 minutes before the track’s gates open, and stop three-and-a-half hours after the final race event each afternoon. Sunday’s race is expected to run from 1 to 3 p.m.
Near the track, vehicles will be funneled in different directions in an attempt to balance the traffic load. People in personal vehicles, charter buses and limousines will be able to access the track’s 14 grass-and-gravel parking lots only via Pearce Lane and Kellam Road on the north or FM 812 on the south. Signs on the Texas 130 tollway will advise them to exit at Pearce or FM 812.
Shuttle buses and taxis, on the other hand, will disgorge their passengers at newly built lots just west of the track on McAngus Road. They’ll get to those lots, by and large, by exiting the tollway at Elroy Road.
Track employees and race competitors will have yet another approach to the track, mainly using the Moore Road exit off Texas 130.
Under federal law, the track had to seek out private bus contractors before going to Capital Metro for shuttles. Race officials say they have arranged for about 375 private buses from Austin and other large Texas cities, and will use 75 Capital Metro buses on Saturday and Sunday that would otherwise sit idle. Capital Metro is charging the circuit $112 an hour to use the buses, agency officials said. At an estimated 1,950 hours of bus service, Capital Metro expected to receive more than $200,000.
But the primary challenge will be after the race. Shuttle buses will be lined up on McAngus waiting to take people back to the three stops, and hundreds of taxis are expected to be waiting at the nearby cab lot.
The circuit plans concerts at a portion of the track’s amphitheater and other places on the site to entice some fans to hang around awhile. For those leaving immediately after the race, a trip downtown could take up to two hours.
The transportation plan, track officials said, is the fruit of their experiences (Sexton and Sweazy spent years as Kentucky Derby executives) — and that of consultants who have worked on many Super Bowls, Kentucky Derby races, other F1 races, presidential inaugurations and other large events. How well it works, of course, will depend on factors out of their control, including weather, traffic accidents, mechanical breakdowns and the individual decisions of more than 100,000 people.
“Our challenge is to create a plan that is simple to the public to understand,” Sexton said. “Anytime you’re trying to get a large number of people to a major event, simplicity is important. But obviously, execution will be very important.” The Statesman
City Council to take up annexing Circuit of the Americas
The Austin City Council will hold the first of two public hearings this week on annexing Circuit of the Americas, a racetrack under construction in southeastern Travis County.
At its meeting Thursday, council members will consider annexing 1,587 acres, most of which is owned by the circuit. Because the city must annex contiguous land, the council will also consider annexing state-owned land and one privately held parcel between the current city limits and the circuit.
Annexation extends the city’s regulatory authority on the site and will add the $300 million track to its tax rolls starting next year.
A second public hearing is on the draft agenda for the council’s Oct. 18 meeting. If approved, the annexation’s effective date would be Dec. 17, city spokeswoman Roxanne Evans said.
The city had considered annexing the circuit property last year but backed off after deciding it made more to sense to wait until the land was further developed, a city spokesman said at the time. The move to put the annexation on hold, last November, also happened amid questions about whether financing for the track was in jeopardy.
Grosjean named most dangerous man in F1
Romain Grosjean cemented his reputation as the least popular man on the F1 grid when he caused yet another crash at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Mark Webber called Grosjean "the first-lap nutcase" and race stewards gave him a 10-second stop-and-go penalty following his ninth crash of the season.
The Lotus driver ran into Red Bull's Webber at the opening corner, forcing him off the track. Meanwhile his Lotus teammate Kimi Raikkonen was taking out Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
The Australian said: "I haven’t seen what happened at the start but the guys confirmed that it was the first-lap nutcase again Grosjean."
He added: "Maybe he needs another holiday."
Grosjean served a one-race ban last month and was fined £40,000 for swerving into Lewis Hamilton at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, taking out championship leader Fernando Alonso in the process.
He has now been involved in nine accidents this season, and accepted responsibility for Sunday's crash, saying: "There was quite a big speed difference between me and Mark as I came into the first corner. It caught me by surprise and we collided. It was a stupid mistake."
McLaren driver Jenson Button had harsh words at Suzuka, saying: "Is it for Formula One to do something about it? Or should he just take a good look at himself and sort his s*** out, because that what he needs to do.
"We saw it a lot in (feeder series) GP2 with him. He'd either win or crash and it seems he has the same philosophy and he needs to change his views."
Webber's Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: "The most important thing when you make a mistake is to learn from it, and I think the most disappointing thing is that it is a repeat incident and proved extremely costly for Mark, as it did for Hamilton and Alonso at Spa, and numerous other victims earlier in the year."
Former F1 driver and Sky commentator Martin Brundle added: "These things don't happen by coincidence.
"His judgment is clearly wrong in close combat and I don't know what he can do about it because it's such an instinctive thing down there."
Ex-F1 star Johnny Herbert joined the chorus of disapproval, saying: "The team should tell him bye-bye."
ROMAIN GROSJEAN'S CRASHES
1-Australian GP - Pastor Maldonado tags Grosjean on second lap, the Lotus man has to retire.
2-Malaysian GP - Spins off and retires on lap four after a collision with Michael Schumacher
3-Spanish GP - Sergio Perez sustains a puncture and later retires after a first-lap tangle with Grosjean.
4-Monaco GP - Hits Schumacher going into the first corner, taking out Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado.
5-British GP - Contact with Paul Di Resta puts the Force India man out of the race, again on the opening lap.
6-German GP - More lap one shenanigans as he hits Felipe Massa then loses his nosecone colliding with Bruno Senna.
7-Hungarian GP - Nearly commits the cardinal sin of taking out his team-mate as he and Kimi Raikkonen touch.
8-Belgian GP - Banned for one race for swerving into Lewis Hamilton on the approach to turn one, causing multi-car pile-up.
9-Japanese GP - Gets stop-go penalty for running into Mark Webber on the first corner, pushing the Red Bull driver off the track. Yahoo! Eurosport