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Latest F1 news in brief - Monday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Hari Roberts
    Webber not targeting 2013 retirement
  • Red Bull bluffing or struggling as new season looms
  • McLaren confirms Lowe 'moving to Mercedes'
  • Lotus made Valsecchi only F1 offer for 2013
  • 'Dream killer' sponsor as Razia loses F1 seat
  • Ferrari expects shocks in Melbourne
  • Hari Roberts Joins Caterham F1 Team as Head of Aerodynamics New
  • Kubica signs WRC2 deal with Citroen New
  • Combined times: Barcelona pre-season test New
  • Vettel: Teams still unsure over tires New

Webber not targeting 2013 retirement
(GMM)  Mark Webber has dismissed any suggestion he has replaced Michael Schumacher as F1's oldest driver speeding towards the paddock exit.

With Schumacher now back in retirement, Australian Webber, who turns 37 in August, is the oldest active race driver on the grid.

Combined with his new one-year contract for 2013, the situation has raised expectations this season could be the Red Bull driver's swansong.

"I don't see this as my last year in formula one," Webber told the Sun newspaper.

"I have signed one-year contracts for the last four years here even when I am fighting for the world championship."

Webber said it is arguable he is even the F1 driver closest to the finish-line, as Jenson Button has actually contested more grands prix.

"(But) it means absolutely jack sh*t," he insisted.  "If Michael Schumacher was still on the grid, then how would that make me feel any different?

"I still feel 25.  I know I am not but I feel young.  I don't feel as though I am getting tired when driving the car.  I feel good," said Webber.

Red Bull bluffing or struggling as new season looms
(GMM)  As the sun set on the final day of pre-season testing late on Sunday, the words on everyone's lips were Mercedes and Red Bull.

"Everyone is saying that this Mercedes is fast.  Consistently fast," said respected Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt.

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko added: "(It is fast) at least on one lap.  But at least we do have to take them really seriously."

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael agrees: "Hamilton and Rosberg have been quick in all circumstances."

On the other hand, there are now questions being asked about the pace of world champions Red Bull's new RB9, after a difficult last weekend of testing in Barcelona.

New haircut aside, Sebastian Vettel did not look entirely cool.

"It has been extremely difficult to assess some changes and find the right direction with the car, simply because the tires have not been good enough," he is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

Teammate Mark Webber added: "We need another couple of weeks of testing, but we don't have it."

German Vettel continued: "The new parts are not working exactly the way we had hoped."

Some paddock insiders suspect Red Bull, now less than a fortnight before Melbourne, is bluffing.

"They have hidden their game the whole time," thinks Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

Nico Rosberg added: "I am convinced some of our opponents have been bluffing."

But even Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz sounds concerned: "I think the tires are making everyone a bit worried," said the billionaire.

Right-hand man Marko added: "Not everything has gone to plan, but now is the time to analyze the data."

Speed Week's technical expert Gary Anderson said: "I still think the best car is the Red Bull, but the Mercedes has left a great impression, and I also see Lotus at the front, even though they have had problems with reliability.

"About McLaren, I'm not so sure," he added.

What about Ferrari?  As his test duties ended, Fernando Alonso said the F138 is "200 times" better than last year's red car.

Team test driver Marc Gene told Marca newspaper: "There are several teams that can win races.  I know Fernando is happy with the car.

"I did a filming day and it has more grip.  We are where we imagined, but we do not know about the others."

After recovering from apparent food poisoning, Kimi Raikkonen closed his winter by saying he doesn't expect the 2013 pecking-order to be much different to last year's.

Asked if he could have matched Rosberg's winter-best Barcelona time, he smiled to the Finnish broadcaster MTV3: "It would have been close."

Agreed McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael: "From the lap times we've seen, the season is going to be incredibly close."

McLaren confirms Lowe 'moving to Mercedes'
(GMM)  Sam Michael, McLaren's sporting director, has finally confirmed what the entire F1 paddock suspects -- Paddy Lowe is heading to Mercedes.

It is a poorly-kept secret that 50-year-old Lowe, formerly McLaren's technical director, has been placed on 'gardening leave' before he moves to Mercedes, perhaps to become the Brackley based team's new boss in 2014.

But in its media statement last week, McLaren said only that Lowe is embarking "on a fresh challenge in 2014".

Mercedes has also refused to officially confirm the news.

But McLaren's Michael has now told British broadcaster Sky: "He (Lowe) has taken his choice to move to Mercedes and we wish him all the best."

Bild, Germany's biggest newspaper, has heard the same information, reporting that a winning Mercedes would be "a parting gift" from the team's current boss, Ross Brawn.

"Next season he (Brawn) will be replaced by ex McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe," read the report.

Even Mercedes is beginning to sing from that song sheet.

The German newspaper FAZ has quoted motor sport boss and shareholder Toto Wolff as saying: "If Paddy Lowe should come to Mercedes, then there would be a very structured succession plan with Ross, which would be done by mutual goodwill and for the benefit of the team."

Lotus made Valsecchi only F1 offer for 2013
(GMM)  Davide Valsecchi, the latest GP2 champion, has revealed he will never forget Lotus' offer of a role in formula one this year.

We reported last month that the 26-year-old Italian risks becoming the first ever GP2 title winner who might never sit on a F1 grid.

But he will at least be Lotus' reserve driver in 2013, and on Saturday was called up to test the impressive new black and red E21 when Kimi Raikkonen called in sick with food poisoning.

"I used Kimi's seat, overalls, shoes ... everything except the underwear," he said in Barcelona, after Romain Grosjean dashed from Paris to replace him.

Valsecchi said he was happy with the brief opportunity to drive, but Italy's Tuttosport sensed his disappointment at failing to secure a proper race seat.

"There have been calls," he is quoted as saying, "but they were all asking for sponsors, and all I offer is a Fiat Punto," Valsecchi joked.

"Lotus was the only one to call me and really propose something to me," he revealed.  "If one day I become the best in the world, I will remember it."

'Dream killer' sponsor as Razia loses F1 seat
(GMM)  Luiz Razia insists he is not losing any sleep, despite coming tantalizingly close to realizing his dream of racing in formula one this year.

In fact, he was even the subject of a Marussia media announcement and began testing his 2013 car recently in Spain, only to be let down by a crucial sponsor.

"I will sleep tonight, knowing that the failure was circumstantial," the 23-year-old Brazilian told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

Elsewhere, Razia even sported a smile and a humorous sense of irony, wearing a t-shirt bearing the words 'Dream Killer' for an interview with Brazil's Globo.

"Two individuals who have a company signed a contract with Marussia," he explained.  "They paid the first installment, then they had problems."

Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio estimated the missing payment at EUR 6 million.

"It's been hard for me, of course," Razia admitted.  "I need to regroup.  But I have faith and sometimes these things happen for us to grow spiritually.

"Right now I am returning home to Milton Keynes to think about what to do with my life."

Returning to his brush with F1 racing stardom, Razia continued: "It was bad luck, not because of a lack of commitment or professionalism on my park.

"I did as much as anyone could do."

He said he is sure Jules Bianchi, his Ferrari-linked replacement at Marussia, is also well sponsored.

"It would be funny if someone didn't think that," insisted Razia.  "If that wasn't part of it, I'd be sitting in the car now."

For Marussia at least, there could be a silver - or scarlet - lining.

Frenchman Bianchi is highly rated but he is also crucially backed by Ferrari's driver development 'academy', at a time when the currently Cosworth-powered Marussia is openly on the hunt for a supplier of V6s for 2014.

Oricchio said: "Do not be surprised if in 2014 Marussia is competing with a Ferrari engine and transmission."

There may also be an engine link in Adrian Sutil's return to F1 with Force India.

Oricchio said: "I have learned that Sutil has a longstanding relationship with Toto Wolff, now a partner and head of the Mercedes team.

"It could explain why Vijay Mallya decided on Sutil and not Bianchi."

Ferrari expects shocks in Melbourne
Ferrari is predicting some 'shocks' at the Australian Grand Prix, with tire uncertainty clouding the Formula 1 pecking order.

Although there is a growing view that Red Bull leads the pack ahead of the season opener in Melbourne, Ferrari technical director Pat Fry believes that difficulties teams have faced in managing tires in testing leave the form book unclear.

"There are still going to be a lot of people learning things in Melbourne to be honest," he said. "Here, the tires, they grain massively, so what you see here is not necessarily going to carry over until Melbourne.

"I think there will be a few surprised people and a few shocked people."

The high rate of degradation experienced due to the Barcelona track characteristics and cold winter weather has left teams saying that understanding what is going on is an impossible task.

"Certainly there has been massive degradation," added Fry, who says he is pretty pleased with Ferrari's winter test program.

"Here is a little bit dominated by the graining, but it is bad here. In the morning it is quite bad, because you can't run the hard tire as by the time you have warmed it up it has grained. It will be interesting at a cold Spa to see what happens as well!

"I think it is going to be fairly mixed up to be honest. I wouldn't like to predict where we will be.

"It will be interesting to see if it is 30 degrees [in Australia] like it was there a few days ago. Then it will be a different story to here.

"We are all going to learn that weekend."

Hari Roberts Joins Caterham F1 Team as Head of Aerodynamics
Caterham F1 Team has announced that Hari Roberts has joined the team as Head of Aerodynamics.

As Head of Aerodynamics Hari will be working closely with Technical Director Mark Smith and Performance Director John Iley. He brings with him a wealth of aerodynamic, trackside and simulation experience from his previous roles which includes working with Jordan, Renault F1 Team and, most recently, Lotus F1 Team, giving him the perfect platform to play an important role in Caterham F1 Team’s long-term plans to challenge for honors in Formula One.

Hari Roberts: “I am excited about the challenge that lies ahead with Caterham F1 Team and I am delighted to have renewed my working partnership with Mark, and started a new partnership with the whole team. Caterham F1 Team has the potential to grow into a serious force in Formula One and I am looking forward to playing an integral role in helping the team fulfill its potential.”

Mark Smith: “I am delighted that Hari has joined our team, particularly as his appointment extends an excellent working relationship that I have had with him over many years with teams including Jordan and Renault F1 Team. He gives us more senior leadership in a critical area of the team’s development and it is another sign of our shareholders’ ongoing commitment to our team’s growth that we have appointed someone of Hari’s caliber to the role of Head of Aerodynamics.

“From a starting point of zero just over four years ago Hari now joins a team of over 120 very talented people in our Technical Office. We have also invested in such core areas as our dedicated model shop at Leafield, the ongoing development of our High Performance Cluster (HPC), which powers our CFD and design functions, and our driver in the loop simulator – all of which give us the tools needed to fight with the most famous names in motorsport in years to come.”

Kubica signs WRC2 deal with Citroen
Robert Kubica will contest the World Rally Championship's WRC2 tier in 2013, having signed a deal with Citroen. The ex-Formula 1 driver, who had been in talks with Mercedes over a potential DTM seat, will pilot a Citroen DS3 RRC at seven events.

The Pole, a former Grand Prix winner, will get his season underway by taking part in the European Rally Championship's Rally Canary Islands from March 21-23, while his primary WRC2 program begins at Rally Portugal from April 11-14.

"I weighed up the different options before deciding on this program," said Kubica. "I kept in touch with Citroen Racing and both sides were keen to continue working together. I’m really pleased now to be able to return to top-level racing.

"Taking part in Rally Islas Canarias will be an interesting challenge for me. I can’t wait to start racing, but I haven’t set myself any specific target. I still have a lot to learn in rallying and to improve I will need to rack up the miles on the stages."

Kubica will drive with a paddle shift gearbox throughout the 2013 campaign, with governing body the FIA permitting small cockpit modifications as he continues to recover from injuries sustained at the Ronde di Andora in early 2011.

Combined times: Barcelona pre-season test
The final pre-season test came to a close at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday afternoon, with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg leading the way from Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso. Below is a table of fastest test times over the four days, but how much fuel each car was carrying is unknown.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps Tire
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.130 251 laps Soft
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:20.494 222 laps Soft
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.588 230 laps Soft
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.266 206 laps Super Soft
5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:21.444 194 laps Soft
6 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:21.541 197 laps Soft
7 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:21.627 171 laps Soft
8 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:21.658 50 laps Soft
9 Paul di Resta Force India 1:21.664 169 laps Soft
10 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:22.305 151 laps Soft
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:22.468 147 laps Soft
12 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:22.514 165 laps Soft
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:22.553 191 laps Soft
14 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:22.658 149 laps Soft
15 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:22.694 201 laps Soft
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:22.716 186 laps Soft
17 Charles Pic Caterham 1:23.115 199 laps Soft
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:23.167 136 laps Soft
19 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:23.223 173 laps Soft
20 Davide Valsecchi Lotus 1:23.448 16 laps Soft
21 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:23.628 152 laps Soft
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:24.103 202 laps Soft
23 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:24.235 174 laps Soft

Vettel: Teams still unsure over tires
With the first race of 2013 only a few weeks away, there remains a lot of uncertainty over the Pirellis as there were high levels of tire degradation in Barcelona.

Although the Italian manufacturer believes the weather played a big role, teams are not sure what to expect come the opening race in Melbourne on March 15.

Red Bull driver Vettel admits it was hard to come to grips with the compound in the RB9.

"We would love to have had the opportunity to work more on the set-up and read the changes but the tires were not very consistent so I think everyone was struggling with that," the defending World Champion said.

Despite their issues with the tires, Vettel remains upbeat ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

"Definitely look forward. Testing was good for us as a whole but surely we would have loved to have had more consistency," he said.

"Especially from a tire point of view, I think all the teams suffered the same kind of problem, therefore it was difficult to really read the changes and the steps that we tried to make but that's how it is."

Unlike in previous years, Red Bull didn't hog the top of the timesheets during the three pre-season tests, but Vettel feels they can still improve quite a bit before the lights go out at Albert Park.

"You always tend to think that [there won't be big gains] but then the people from the aero department turn out with some new parts and there's always going to be a step," he said.

"I think the target is there to really improve the car by a lot, use the time in the races that we have but for now for sure it's to understand a little bit more with the new parts that we put on the car and find the right direction." Planet F1

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