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DATE News (chronologically)
Latest F1 news in brief - Monday
  • Vettel locked at Red Bull?
    'Risk taker' Hamilton beats Vettel on Top Gear
  • Barcelona Sutil's 'last chance' for return - manager
  • Vettel's Red Bull contract 'long term' - Lauda
  • Ecclestone sure F1 to race in Bahrain
  • GP2 champ hopes 2013 role leads to F1 race seat
  • 'Works' teams look to seize 2014 opportunity
  • Mercedes rejects push for F1 withdrawal
  • 2013: Massa's Last Chance?
  • Ferrari voted as #1 "most powerful" brand 

'Risk taker' Hamilton beats Vettel on Top Gear
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton could not contain his smile as he smashed Sebastian Vettel's lap record on the British motoring television show Top Gear.

The 2008 world champion's existing lap of the show's test track in a Suzuki Liana, set on a wet and slippery track some years ago, was bettered by seven tenths by current world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Asked if that has irritated him, Hamilton admitted to presenter Jeremy Clarkson: "Uh huh.

"He's had the best car (in F1) for god knows how many years, and he's also (been) the quickest on top gear," said the Briton.

Hamilton's new time around the Top Gear test track - actually the Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey - was 1.42.9, more than a full second quicker than German Vettel.

Clarkson called the feat "unbelievable".

Clarkson was, however, less impressed with Hamilton's move from McLaren to Mercedes, comparing it with leaving Manchester United in order to play for West Ham.

Hamilton answered: "Everyone is criticizing it, but for me, I've been at McLaren since I was 13 and I want a change -- I'm a risk taker."

But the 28-year-old warned that Mercedes has "really struggled" in the past few years, and so his fans should "definitely not expect" early poles and wins in 2013.

Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda, however, told Italy's Griglia di Partenza program that the performance of the new W04 was "not bad" at the recent Jerez test.

"We wanted Lewis Hamilton because he is a phenomenon, but we are also very pleased with Nico Rosberg.

"Now it's up to us to give them a car capable of winning."

Barcelona Sutil's 'last chance' for return - manager
(GMM)  Adrian Sutil's manager has acknowledged a test this week in Barcelona is the German driver's "last chance" to return to formula one.

Sutil, 30, bowed out of the sport at the end of 2011, after Force India replaced him with Nico Hulkenberg in the wake of the Eric Lux assault affair.

But with Hulkenberg now at Sauber for 2013, Force India's is the last race vacancy for the forthcoming season.

Jules Bianchi, who tested the new VJM06 at Jerez recently, is one candidate, but Sutil has also had a seat for the 2013 car fitted ahead of this week's testing in Barcelona.

Sutil's manager, Manfred Zimmermann, said the chance of a 2013 race seat with Force India is "intact" with just one month to go until the Melbourne season opener.

"We continue to hope, knowing that Barcelona is pretty much the last chance," he is quoted by German news agency DPA.

Vettel's Red Bull contract 'long term' - Lauda
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel is locked into a "long term" contract with Red Bull, according to Niki Lauda.

Triple world champion Lauda, now the Mercedes team's chairman, revealed he is aware of the precise term of the reigning world champion's current deal.

"I know Sebastian's contract with Red Bull and it's long term," the famous Austrian told Italian television Griglia di Partenza.

"That's why we didn't try to take him under contract at Mercedes," added Lauda.

At the same time, Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport daily that Vettel is committed until the end of 2014.

"Anything else was never in question," said the billionaire.

But what about 2015 and beyond?  Would Red Bull consider signing Fernando Alonso, should German Vettel be wooed to Ferrari, who have ruled out putting the two together?

"If he (Alonso) is still racing, then why not?" Mateschitz said.

The publicity-shy Mateschitz also steered away from right-hand man Marko's recent criticism of Mark Webber, saying one of Red Bull's strengths has been its "perfect drivers".

"Webber is both a strong and charismatic character and an exceptional driver," he insisted.

Mateschitz, however, acknowledged that many in formula one would like to see Red Bull finally beaten in 2013.

"It's an understandable desire, but it's also understandable that we are going to try to prevent it," he said.

Mateschitz said "sports" like formula one will "always be an important part" of the energy drink Red Bull's budget, and is not ruling out entering the world of two wheels.

"MotoGP is a fantastic sport that has always fascinating me," he said, admitting a foray for Red Bull is "certainly conceivable".

Ecclestone sure F1 to race in Bahrain
(GMM)  It is "100 per cent" certain this year's Bahrain grand prix is going ahead, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

However, violence has kicked off once again in the island Kingdom, as thousands of anti-government protesters mark the two-year anniversary of the so-called 'Arab Spring'.

The latest international reports say at least two have already died in the new clashes between the protesters and security forces.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone said earlier this month that he was "100 per cent" sure his sport will race in Bahrain as scheduled this April.

"We're scheduled to have an event there so we'll be there the same as last year," the Briton, referring to Bahrain, said during a recent visit to Dubai.

GP2 champ hopes 2013 role leads to F1 race seat
(GMM)  Davide Valsecchi is the first champion in GP2 history who risks never sitting on a formula one grid.

Since the sport's feeder series began in 2005, every champion - Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock, Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean - has recorded his place in F1 history.

Even Giorgio Pantano, the 2008 champion who didn't carry the crown into F1, had already tasted formula one racing, by spending most of the 2004 season with Jordan.

Fellow Italian Valsecchi, 26, is the new reigning GP2 champion, but he will have to be content with the role of 'third driver' at Lotus this year.

Some media reports suggest, however, that Valsecchi will be given the chance to race in 2012 if regular drivers Kimi Raikkonen or Grosjean are unable.

"I hope that this is a really good start to a career in formula one," Valsecchi said in an interview published by Lotus' official website.

"I've been with the team at the first test in Jerez already and it's been great to get involved and into the way that they work on track."

Asked if he thinks his new role will lead to a full seat, he answered: "I very much hope so, and that step by step I will eventually become a full time competitive formula one driver.

"I will continue to do my best whenever the team needs me for something, and whenever I have the chance I will try to show all my best qualities.

"If I do the best job I can this year then it will open up my chances for the future, and we'll see then if I'm good enough."

'Works' teams look to seize 2014 opportunity
(GMM)  Still amid the Red Bull era, the so-called 'works' teams are looking ahead with great eagerness to 2014.

Red Bull has mastered the current era of aerodynamics-dominated regulations, where the normally-aspirated V8 engines have been 'frozen' for many years.

That is all about to change.  From next year, the cars will be powered by all-new turbo V6s integrated with sophisticated energy recovery or 'ERS' systems.

"It is a great opportunity for teams like Ferrari and Mercedes to integrate the work of the engine and chassis sides," Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial.

Indeed, the German marque is already hard at work on 2014, with some saying that could explain Lewis Hamilton's willingness to jump ship from McLaren, the former Mercedes 'works' team.

Also without obvious 'works' status is Red Bull, even though the energy drink-owned outfit has strengthened its ties with engine supplier Renault and now has title sponsorship courtesy of the Renault-aligned Nissan brand, Infiniti.

Actually, Red Bull and Renault are tied together contractually well into the V6 era, and according to a 2011 statement will together "develop innovative technical solutions" for the new engine era.

And team boss Christian Horner insists that Red Bull is indeed the "premier, factory team of Renault Sport".

Ferrari is also working vigorously on the 2014 project, confirming recently that its ultra-successful former designer Rory Byrne is now back on board as he steps up his role as a consultant.

The South African told a German journalist recently he is "working full steam" on Ferrari's 2014 car, as it emerges he has beaten his battle with prostate cancer.

Byrne, 69, was diagnosed three years ago.

He told the Times Live publication: "I had an MRI scan in December and I am cancer free."

Mercedes rejects push for F1 withdrawal
(GMM)  Mercedes has hit back at reports some of its shareholders want the German marque to pull out of formula one.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper has quoted two such shareholders - Michael Muders of the fund manager Union, and Henning Gebhardt, of DWS - as criticizing Mercedes' expanding push for F1 success.

"Mercedes has been behind for years, without consequence," said Muders.

"But formula one is expensive and brings nothing to the (Daimler) group."

Gebhardt added: "Formula one no longer enhances the image (of Mercedes), especially if we are in countries criticized of human rights violations."

But Mercedes' new F1 chairman Niki Lauda has rubbished the claims, telling Bild newspaper there is "no doubt formula one is developing positively".

"There are more and more TV viewers, and we are going to more and more countries.

"This is an incredible growth and Mercedes benefits," said the famous Austrian.

Meanwhile, Daimler spokesman Jorg Howe insisted: "Our involvement in F1 is not up for debate.

"We have created new structures to ensure long term success and will soon be on top."

He is quoted by DPA news agency: "We do not want to pull out of formula one.  On the contrary."

Lauda continued: "The marketing value (of F1) is always there, but clearly the value grows with success.  We are building up a strong team and our shareholders will have to wait.

"Ferrari is in the same situation as us -- we must catch up."

2013: Massa's Last Chance?
Piloting the new F138 for the first time, the 31-year-old Felipe Massa went to the top of the time sheets on the third day of testing at Jerez recently, eventually setting a time which would remain unsurpassed by any of Ferrari’s chief rivals during the course of the week.

While the test session in Jerez was only designed as a precursor to the main test event, scheduled to take place in Barcelona. The results for Felipe Massa will be a substantial confidence boost after a difficult 2012 campaign.

The results of the pre-season test session are unlikely to divulge who will be the new world champion when the checkered flag drops in November, but it has at least given some indication that Ferrari, who tested at Jerez with Felipe Massa as the sole participant, could still challenge for honors in the new season.

This should give the 31-year-old Brazilian a substantial confidence boost after a year which tested his resolve with the Italian team in 2012. Piloting the new F138, Massa did appear to have more control over the car at Jerez, often carrying more speed through the corners when compared to his chief rivals, including Red Bull and McLaren.

The Jerez test will give little indication about who will be challenging for the opening race victory in Melbourne, however it did suggest that in the hands of Felipe Massa, the new F138 car seemed far more stable than its predecessor the F2012.

After speculation over the winter break that Massa might be replaced at Ferrari by Sebastian Vettel, or leave the sport altogether, his performance in Jerez will have given the Brazilian driver a significant confidence boost ahead of the opening race in March.

The strong performance at the pre-season test session, could also re-kindle the spark that made Massa such a revered and respected driver in the sport when he joined Ferrari back in 2006, with the suggestion that the Brazilian could finally challenge for the one title that has eluded him over the past eleven years, a drivers crown.

His battle for the championship with Lewis Hamilton in 2008 was arguably the Brazilian’s peak performance with Ferrari, and despite losing the title on the final lap at Brazil, the 31-year-old still looks determined to challenge his younger opponents.

174 race starts, 15 pole positions and 11 race victories only tell a small proportion of Felipe Massa’s career in the sport over the last 11 years. Since his near fatal crash in 2009, Massa has always been trying to find the same form and the same consistent rhythm, which brought the Brazilian so agonizingly close to a solitary drivers’ title back in 2008.

While Felipe Massa has almost always been viewed as the ‘second driver’ at Ferrari, in recent years, the insistence on playing as the second fiddle to Fernando Alonso has often been detrimental to the experienced Brazilian.

While many have suggested that 2013 will be ‘make or break’ for the Ferrari driver partnership, it still appears to be an unlikely scenario for the line-up to change at the end of the year. However, one thing does appear certain in 2013, if Felipe Massa really has genuine title ambitions with the new F138, it could prove to be his last chance to prove his potential. Fancast

Ferrari voted as #1 "most powerful" brand
A recent report from top branding company Brand finance has listed Ferrari as the “most powerful brand” ahead of the likes of Google, Facebook and coca cola.

The report took into account average revenue per customer; net margins, advertising & marketing spend as well as brand loyalty.

“It is always a pleasure to top any list and still more so when the competition includes some of the world’s most famous companies,”

“This achievement proves that even in very tough economic times, Italy can still offer the world businesses of excellence.

“Behind this acknowledgement are exceptional products made by equally exceptional men and women. They made it possible and for that I thank them.” said Luca di Montezemolo who is the president of Ferrari.

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