Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday
Paddock figures back Ferrari's gearbox penalty 'trick'
|Felipe Massa took it on the chin for the 'gipper'|
- Even Schu's parade-lap road car didn't work
- Marko 'not relaxed' as alternator crisis looms for finale
- Alguersuari says 2013 plans revealed 'very soon'
- Mercedes takes full control of F1 team
- Company files $650m lawsuit against F1
- Ecclestone happy F1 to get 2012 title showdown
- Massa's old diffuser better than Alonso's new in Austin
- Button doubts Perez to fight for early wins in 2013
- Grosjean admits 'no signature' yet for 2013
- Alternator a 'ticking time bomb' for Red Bull
- Pirelli takes 2013 prototypes to Interlagos
Paddock figures back Ferrari's gearbox penalty 'trick'
(GMM) Bob Fernley, the day-to-day team boss at Force India, has backed Ferrari's decision to deliberately penalize Felipe Massa in Austin.
The Italian team was roundly criticized for tampering with Brazilian Massa's long-life gearbox for no other reason than to incur a five-place penalty that switched title-fighting teammate Fernando Alonso to the 'clean' side of the grid.
Ferrari's immediate competitors, Red Bull and McLaren, said they wouldn't have made a similar decision.
But Fernley told PA Sport it is nonsense to write of Ferrari's tactic as unsporting.
"At the end of the day the regulations are what they are, Ferrari took them to the limit, and that's what we do in formula one," he said.
"I would absolutely have done the same. We're not here to try to make friends, we're here to win."
Many commentators in the media also slammed Ferrari's tactic, but former driver Marc Surer said the Maranello team did the right thing.
"If you look at the (race) start, it was absolutely right," he told German television Sky.
The Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport added: "With a world title at stake, everyone would have done Ferrari's trick."
Even Schu's parade-lap road car didn't work
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's US grand prix race-day got off to a bad start long before his Mercedes was fired up.
In fact, the wheels weren't turning at all when his 23 colleagues began the pre-race drivers' parade in the back seats of vintage American road cars.
SID news agency said the fact the car bearing the 43-year-old's famous name broke down before the lap even began was "emblematic of his bad luck this season".
Ahead of his penultimate race in F1, seven time world champion Schumacher instead had to complete the lap sitting alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
"I can't find any words other than ironic ones for the race today," the famous German said after finishing the race a woeful sixteenth.
Marko 'not relaxed' as alternator crisis looms for finale
(GMM) On paper, Sebastian Vettel is the overwhelming favorite to seal his third consecutive drivers' crown this weekend in Brazil.
His 13-point lead over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso means he can steer his ultra-competitive Red Bull to just fourth place at Interlagos and still set off for his winter slumber with the title.
"But Alonso still must win," Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko is quoted by Speed Week. "He must take the risk. That's the important thing."
But it's not quite as simple as that. First, there is the pressure of the season finale, with Alonso a hardened, never-say-die samurai-loving competitor.
And Marko acknowledged that Brazil is often a "crazy race", even without the forecast high probability of rain.
But the Austrian insisted: "The only question mark is reliability. So no, I'm not relaxed."
Marko is undoubtedly referring to Red Bull's recurring alternator failures in 2012, the latest of which struck Mark Webber's car in Austin.
It was believed Renault offered Red Bull a brand new specification of the Magneti Marelli unit for the US grand prix, but in fact the reigning champions opted for the tried-and-tested previous version.
Spain's Mundo Deportivo newspaper said Red Bull will definitely use the brand new specification for the Sao Paulo finale.
"We are ready with the new one," Renault's Remi Taffin is quoted by Brazil's Globo Esporte.
"Generally we feel more comfortable with something we have known for a long time, but we have tested the new design and so there's no need to be worried," he added.
Alguersuari says 2013 plans revealed 'very soon'
(GMM) Jaime Alguersuari says his plans for the 2013 season will be announced "very soon".
Recently, the former Toro Rosso racer and current Pirelli tester told his supporters that he was confident he would return to the grid next season.
He told them the plans would be revealed "soon".
A reader of Spain's sports daily AS asked Alguersuari, 22, if 'soon' had now come and gone.
The reader told the music-loving driver that if he was in charge at McLaren, he would have signed him to replace Lewis Hamilton.
"But apparently without billionaire sponsors, it's impossible," the reader said.
Alguersuari responded: "Ha ha, thanks!
"I will reveal my plans for 2013 to all my fans very soon. Thank you for your support."
Force India is tipped to announce the identity of Paul di Resta's new teammate for 2013 this weekend in Brazil.
Mercedes takes full control of F1 team
(GMM) Mercedes-Benz has taken back total control of its formula one team by buying the 40 per cent stake held by Aabar, the Abu Dhabi investment arm.
We reported in April that Aabar, who were then already watering down their involvement with Mercedes' parent Daimler, was set to pull out of the Brackley based Mercedes GP team.
Now, financial media sources Bloomberg and Reuters report that Mercedes has indeed bought back Aabar's stake.
Spokespeople for both Aabar and Mercedes confirmed the news, but would not comment on the value of the deal.
Niki Lauda, Mercedes' new non-executive chairman, currently wears 'Aabar' branding on his famous red cap.
Company files $650m lawsuit against F1
(GMM) A company has filed a $650 million lawsuit against formula one.
Bluewaters Communications Holdings claims it was the high bidder to buy the sport in 2005.
It is claimed CVC, F1's current owner, was the lower but successful bidder because of F1 chief executive Ecclestone's alleged bribes to the now-jailed former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.
Gribkowsky, CVC and the German bank BayernLB were all named as defendants in the New York suit, the Financial Times, Bloomberg and cityam.com report.
Bluewaters claims it offered in writing to pay 10 per cent more than all other bidders, but gave "no commitment" to keep Ecclestone in the top job.
But when asked on Monday why the bid failed, Ecclestone said: "No idea. They probably didn't give enough money."
Ecclestone happy F1 to get 2012 title showdown
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he is happy the 2012 world championship will be decided only at this weekend's twentieth and last race of the season in Brazil.
As Christian Horner was speaking to the media in Austin, where Sebastian Vettel failed to wrap up the title despite being mathematically able, the F1 chief executive walked past and said jokingly to the Red Bull boss: "Thank you very much.
"Very kind," he smiled. "Very well planned."
Horner told journalists: "As you can see, everything pre-arranged."
Actually, Ecclestone is a close friend of German Vettel, and he told the SID news agency that he will deserve his third title.
As for a one-race championship showdown, however: "That's what every fan wishes for. And me too," said the 82-year-old Briton.
But asked who he would bet on at Interlagos, Ecclestone answered: "I think Sebastian."
As for how much money the billionaire would wager, he said: "As much as you want."
When asked who deserves the title the most, Ecclestone answered: "The one who has more points at the end, so maybe Sebastian is a bit more deserving because of what he has done.
"But most of the time Fernando (Alonso) has not had the best car, so I think he deserves it too."
Even the Ferrari-slanted Italian press agrees with Ecclestone that Vettel is the overwhelming favorite.
"The championship is still open," noted La Gazzetta dello Sport, "but, better said, it is not closed completely."
The sports daily said Vettel and Red Bull are beatable, "but at the moment not by Alonso or Ferrari."
F1 legend Niki Lauda told RTL television that Vettel's 13-point advantage over Spaniard Alonso is "a lot for one race".
Another former driver Marc Surer told Sky television: "We can assume that Vettel will drive it home in Brazil. His car failing is the only danger."
Alonso is pinning his hopes on the latter eventuality.
"They (Red Bull) have often had problems with their cooling or their brakes or their KERS or their alternator," said the Ferrari driver.
"It always happens to that car (Mark Webber's), so maybe in Brazil it changes cars."
Massa's old diffuser better than Alonso's new in Austin
(GMM) As was rumored before F1 arrived in Austin last week, the latest developments for Fernando Alonso's title-contending Ferrari did not work.
New pieces, including a new diffuser, were tried in a straight line at the Idiada facility in Spain, prior to the US grand prix.
It was rumored immediately afterwards that the real-world data did not match up with what was produced in the wind tunnel.
Still, the new diffuser was fitted to Spaniard Alonso's F2012 in Austin, before he was roundly out-performed by teammate Felipe Massa all weekend.
"Yes, indeed, Felipe Massa had the old diffuser and it worked better," former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari told the Spanish sports daily AS.
And Brazilian Massa confirmed to Marca newspaper: "Everything was the same except the diffuser.
"I had it available, but I decided I'd be better with the old one. That was the only difference."
Alonso said "It's not always the case that the latest part is the best choice".
Button doubts Perez to fight for early wins in 2013
(GMM) Jenson Button thinks Sergio Perez could struggle to fill Lewis Hamilton's winning boots at McLaren next year.
Mexican Perez has been signed to replace 2008 world champion and F1's last-start winner Hamilton for 2013 and beyond.
Currently at Sauber, 22-year-old Perez has said his 2013 target is wins and the title, but in the five races since the McLaren deal was announced, he has failed to score even a single point.
"It's going to be a tricky seat for Checo to fill," his teammate next year, Button, is quoted by British newspapers after the US grand prix.
"I have a feeling he will be competitive, but of course he doesn't have the experience and I don't think he will be fighting at the front at the start of next season.
"It is a massive ask but what else can you do? You need to have someone in the car and he is quick.
"I don't know if he will be up to it straight away but we might be surprised at the first race," added Button.
Perez acknowledges the doubters, but said it has little to do with his black run of form at Sauber since the McLaren deal was announced.
"I am going to the best team next year, so there will always be a question mark until I constantly deliver in a McLaren," he is quoted by the BBC. "This doesn't bother me."
But the BBC claimed Perez is currently a long way from McLaren's standards, having failed to come close to Hamilton and Button in the British team's benchmark fitness test.
"I am not worried about him," insisted team boss Martin Whitmarsh. "We have the winter to prepare him."
Grosjean admits 'no signature' yet for 2013
(GMM) Romain Grosjean has admitted he is yet to sign on the dotted line for 2013.
Early this week, as publications mused the likely shape of the 2013 grid, it emerged there could still be question marks about Lotus' next lineup.
On paper, the team is expected to keep the Eric Boullier-linked fellow Frenchman Grosjean, who is strongly backed by important team sponsor Total.
And Kimi Raikkonen's 2013 contract has already been announced.
But Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said Raikkonen's place could actually be in doubt, because of an issue with how much bonus points money the Finn should receive.
"I don't know where this stuff comes from," the 2007 world champion's spokesman Riku Kuvajan is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.
"I can't say anything about it."
As for Grosjean, the 26-year-old has had a generally better run since the low of his Monza race ban in September.
But he suffered a crucial spin in Austin last weekend, with an unnamed team member telling Speed Week: "His place (for 2013) remains at risk."
Grosjean, however, recovered to finish seventh in Austin, just behind Raikkonen.
"It reassures me," he is quoted by RMC Sport, "but still there is no signature so we are waiting until the end of the season."
Alternator a 'ticking time bomb' for Red Bull
Red Bull and Renault will be working flat out to ensure Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel does not go into next weekend's title showdown in Brazil with a 'ticking time bomb' deep inside his car.
Vettel leads Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by 13 points ahead of the final round at Interlagos after finishing runner-up to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
While Red Bull clinched their third constructors' title in a row, the celebrations were muted by Vettel being denied his third successive crown for at least another week and reliability problems affecting Australian teammate Mark Webber.
"Reliability is a concern, it's unfortunately our third alternator failure this year which is a ticking time bomb," Red Bull's technical head Adrian Newey told Britain's Sky television.
"You never know when that one is going to strike. Renault haven't managed to find a proper solution to that one so that's a continual worry in the back of our minds as is the rest of the reliability.
"The cars are very complicated and keeping them going around is anything but guaranteed."
Pirelli takes 2013 prototypes to Interlagos
Just like last year, the last race of the season will be held at the legendary Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, and Pirelli has nominated the P Zero Silver hard tire and P Zero White medium tire for the title decider. The Italian firm will also bring some 2013 prototype tires so that teams can try them early on.
Interlagos is one of the shortest but also one of the most technically challenging circuits on the calendar of the year, with a 4.309-kilometre lap characterized by fast corners, hairpin bends and dramatic elevation changes.
The different surface variations mean that generating optimal grip and downforce is vital, particularly as there are a number of camber changes as well. Turn 14 – the slowest corner of the track – is a good example of some of the technical challenges that Interlagos poses for the tires: the drivers brake hard while heading uphill and then turning into the corner, before managing wheelspin carefully as they exit the turn.
Just to add to the demands of what is already an extremely complex and busy circuit, the weather at Interlagos is notoriously variable, meaning that the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet tires could be called into service.
The teams will also have two extra sets of next year’s prototype tires at their disposal for Friday’s free practice sessions, in order to give them an idea of the characteristics of the 2013 tires. The compounds and construction of the slick tires will be different, so this will be a valuable opportunity for the drivers to prepare for next year. But with the title fight so closely balanced, many drivers will prefer to concentrate on Brazil: just one of the many crucial strategic decisions that they will have to make over the course of the weekend.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:
“We’ll be bringing some of our 2013 prototype tires to Brazil in order for the teams to get a taste of them during free practice. With no testing until February otherwise, this will be an extremely valuable opportunity for them to see what our new tires are like as they finalize their 2013 cars – so let’s hope that it doesn’t rain on Friday! Both the compounds and construction will be different, which means that the characteristics of the new tires will be altered, with a wider working range and some compounds that are slightly more aggressive. We’ve yet to finalize where exactly all the compounds will sit in relation to each other, which is why we are calling the tire to be used in Brazil a ‘prototype’ rather than giving it a specific nomination, but it will be very representative of our general design philosophy next year. We’re looking forward to hearing the feedback from the teams about it, and of course sending our 2012 tires out in style at what is usually a very demanding and thrilling race in Brazil, watched by some of the most passionate and welcoming fans in the world.”
Lucas di Grassi, Pirelli test driver:
“Interlagos is actually where I started my career in go-karts and it is one of my favorite circuits, with a bit of everything, plenty of elevation changes, and a nice rhythm. I believe the track has the highest altitude on the F1 calendar, around 700 meters, which has a big influence on both downforce and engine power. From a tire point of view, the hard and medium tire choice should be good. Although the surface is very rough, Interlagos won’t consume a lot of tires: the corners aren’t so fast and it won’t place as many demands on them as Suzuka, for example. Also, we have chosen tires that are more on the conservative side here. The medium will be the fastest tire and this will probably be best for qualifying. I suspect it will be a one or two-stop strategy this time. The only unpredictability is the threat of rain but that could make the race even more interesting now that the championship is still wide open.”
Technical tire notes:
- The track surface in Brazil is notably bumpy, which makes it hard for the tires to find traction and increases the physical demands on the drivers. The race lasts for 71 laps and last year’s winner, Mark Webber (Red Bull), adopted a three-stop strategy to win by 17 seconds.
- There is a big emphasis on combined traction: the transition when drivers go from braking to putting the power down. Interlagos tends to be light on brakes, so conserving momentum is important.
- The wide variety of high and low speed corners, along with the big elevation changes and high altitude above sea level, mean that it is quite difficult to find the correct aerodynamic set-up and, once more, a good medium-low downforce compromise is needed. The last sector of the lap is one of the most important when it comes to the eventual lap time, so this tends to get prioritized in terms of set-up.