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Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday
  • No more talk from Bernie about the NJ race.  Consider it dead.
    Ecclestone wants 22-race calendar in 2014
  • Ecclestone wants third-generation Hill in F1
  • Kubica to contest second-tier WRC in 2013
  • Bianchi expected to stay Force India reserve in 2013
  • 'Red Bull showed nothing' in testing - Wolff
  • Alonso expects Red Bull to lead pack in Australia
  • Fry: The key will be understanding the tires

Ecclestone wants 22-race calendar in 2014
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has revealed he wants to push out F1's already bustling calendar to 22 races in 2014.

This year, with New Jersey's demise, the schedule has dropped from its original 20 grands prix to just nineteen.

But Russia is joining the action next season, and F1 business journalist Christian Sylt wrote in a City A.M. report that talks are on with Mexico and Thailand.

"Having races in the right place is what matters," F1 chief executive Ecclestone told Sylt.

"The teams could probably deal with 22 races."

The 82-year-old also said he would like Africa to host a race in the future.

"I want to be in Cape Town," said Ecclestone.  "I have been offered Durban but I think we would be better off in Cape Town."

Ecclestone wants third-generation Hill in F1
(GMM)  A third-generation formula one driver would be "fantastic", the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has admitted.

Actually, the possibility is now quite real, with 1996 world champion Damon Hill's 22-year-old son Josh to contest the European F3 championship this year.

The winner of this year's series will get a test with the fabled F1 team Ferrari.

Damon Hill has been raising the profile of his son recently, after Josh in 2012 won five races in the Formula Renault 2.0 championship.

Josh's grandfather was the 1962 and 1968 world champion Graham Hill, and Josh recently accompanied his father Damon to collect Graham's entry into Motor Sport magazine's Hall of Fame.

All three Hills raced the now iconic blue and white livery of the London rowing club on their helmets.

Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt: "I wish Damon's son would get into F1.

"It would be super.  It would be fantastic," he told City A.M.

Kubica to contest second-tier WRC in 2013
(GMM)  Robert Kubica will contest the second-tier WRC2 world rally championship at the wheel of a Citroen in 2013.

The former Renault and BMW driver has been out of formula one and full-time motor sport since a near-fatal rallying crash just before the 2011 season.

The news follows the 28-year-old's recent test in a Mercedes DTM car, raising speculation he might contest the premier German touring car series this year.

"I weighed up the different options before deciding on this program," said Kubica after Citroen announced the news on Monday.

"I'm really pleased now to be able to return to top level racing."

The media statement said Citroen has received special dispensation from the governing FIA to install a paddle shift on the steering wheel, to make it easier for Kubica to change gear given the injuries to his once almost-severed arm.

"Robert's determination is an example to us all and we are proud to associate Citroen's image with such a resolutely positive individual," said team boss Yves Matton.

Bianchi expected to stay Force India reserve in 2013
(GMM)  Jules Bianchi has admitted he expected to spend the 2013 season as Force India's reserve driver.

The Frenchman served in that role last year, but was a hot contender to step into the race seat for 2013.

Ultimately, however, Adrian Sutil got the job.

"I honestly thought it was over," Bianchi told France's Sport24.

"And then there was this story (about Marussia and Luiz Razia), but in my head I had told myself that I would do another season as third driver.

"It was really a great surprise to find myself in contention for this (Marussia) seat."

Recalling when Force India chose German Sutil over him, he explained: "The bad news came ... I could stay with Force India but as third driver.

"I thought I had done enough in the past years to make a step forward."

Of course, Bianchi will indeed be on the Melbourne grid next weekend, alongside fellow rookies Max Chilton, his teammate, and also Valtteri Bottas and Giedo van der Garde.

Asked if his new status has sunk in, Bianchi answered: "Not really!  I find it hard to say I'll be on the grid in Melbourne.

"Since I was small and in karting, I have worked towards F1.  It will take me some more days to understand this."

Asked how he responded when Marussia offered him the seat, Bianchi revealed: "I immediately said yes!

"I knew it was being discussed but I didn't really believe it.

"I know that my manager, Nicolas Todt, worked hard for it, as well as my sponsors, the French (motor racing) federation and Ferrari who were all behind me and helped me to where I am today," he added.

'Red Bull showed nothing' in testing - Wolff
(GMM)  Toto Wolff, Mercedes' new shareholder and director, has played down claims the Silver Arrows is a definite title contender for 2013.

The Brackley based team had played down its chances until the last two days of pre-season testing, when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg stunned the paddock with the pace of the new W04.

"Mercedes looks very strong," Ferrari technical director Pat Fry is quoted by Speed Week.

But Austrian Wolff said of the raised expectations: "I have to dampen them because they are quite simply not realistic."

He said winter testing is not a good form guide, particularly if some teams are deliberately hiding their performance.

"Red Bull for example showed nothing," said Wolff.  "We won't know until Melbourne what's really going on," he told the German news agency DPA.

Team newcomer Hamilton, meanwhile, also seemed initially excited by the late-Barcelona test pace, admitting he now expects to win a race.

But Spain's El Confidential quotes him as saying: "There's no reason to be impressed.  People should not get excited.

"It's important for everyone to have their feet on the ground."

Teammate Rosberg, in contrast, has sounded upbeat throughout the winter, openly admitting the W04 is much better than its 2012 predecessor.

But the real question is how it will stack up against the competition.

"Amongst others, the big unknown is Red Bull," the German is quoted as saying.

Alonso expects Red Bull to lead pack in Australia
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso is heading into next weekend's 2013 season opener with realistic expectations of a podium finish.

"I think so," the 2012 title runner-up is quoted by Spain's El Pais newspaper during a sponsor event in Barcelona on Monday.

Fabled Ferrari has had a much better winter compared to a year ago, when the Maranello team was multiple seconds off the pace.

Alonso fought back to lose the championship to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel by just 3 points, and he is expecting a similar contest in 2013.

"McLaren, Lotus will be there," he said.

"And Mercedes, who have worked on this car since the middle of last season, have improved.

"But it would be a major surprise if Red Bull is not in front of everyone," said Alonso.

"They should be able to win in Australia even with the car of Brazil (2012)."

He said his wish for 2013 is therefore to have a car "capable of fighting with the best".

"Able to win races and podiums," the Spaniard clarified.

"We can't forget that late last year we were 7 or 8 tenths behind the competition.  So we will not be the fastest, but we will not be 1.6 seconds behind, as we were in Australia last year.

"But we are faster," he is quoted by the AS newspaper.  "The base is infinitely better.

"I need a faster car to win, but two tenths (slower than the best) is enough."

Alonso said those trying to predict the Melbourne pecking-order based on winter testing will need to wait until next weekend to know the real answer.

"Impossible," he said when asked how easy it is to extrapolate Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus' true form based on the three Spanish tests.

"You don't go to a training camp to see if Barca is going to win on Sunday, or watch Djokovic and Nadal warm up to know the winner.

"The first four or five races will be a surprise for everyone," added Alonso.

Fry: The key will be understanding the tires
The 12 days of testing at Jerez and Barcelona on offer to Scuderia Ferrari and the other ten teams have gone quickly. There were six days of running for Felipe Massa, five for Fernando Alonso and one for Pedro de la Rosa in just about every kind of weather, except perhaps the conditions expected in Melbourne on March 17.

They completed a total of 1069 laps of the two Spanish tracks: 3682km from the last two sessions at the Catalunya circuit plus a further 1231km in Jerez making up a total of 4913km. These are the figures that count for the data analysis that the Scuderia’s engineers have been carrying out to understand the behavior of the F138 – with particular attention paid to the tires, which have been designed to provide a better show and, as a result, the “thrill” of unpredictability.

It was this very point that Pat Fry, Scuderia Ferrari’s Technical Director, emphasized in his evaluation of this intense month of testing: “All the teams, ourselves included, will still have a lot to learn about the tires in Melbourne. The performance and the degradation of the tires will be the determining factor in establishing how competitive everyone is. Albert Park is a partial street circuit – it is only used for racing a few times during the year – so it will be interesting to see how the tires behave in higher temperatures.”

Asked about the comparative performance of the teams, Fry added: “During these days of testing we have just concentrated on our own work program. There are some quick cars but frankly our attention has been very much on the work linked to the F138’s development, collecting data on the new parts that we have brought, especially in this final test. The positive thing is that our aerodynamic simulations – both from the wind tunnel and CFD – have given us the results we had been hoping to see on the track. You can never have a 100% correlation but this is an encouraging sign for the new parts that we aim to bring to the first races, starting in Melbourne.”

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