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

  • Kobayashi will drive a Ferrari 458 in WEC
    Kobayashi signs sports car deal with Ferrari
  • Mercedes lets Hamilton keep helmets, trophies
  • Schumacher back at speed on two wheels
  • Boullier admits to saving Grosjean from axe
  • FIA vice president loses license for drunk-driving
  • 2013 tires better than last year's - Alguersuari
  • Hulkenberg tipped to win Melbourne opener
  • Mother says Raikkonen's comeback 'a surprise'
  • 'Being a Webber' not enough - Villeneuve
  • McLaren chose money over talent for 2013 - Watson
  • Mateschitz wouldn't stop Vettel leaving
  • Ricciardo vows to thrash Vergne in 2013 New

Kobayashi signs sports car deal with Ferrari
(GMM)  Kamui Kobayashi, who has lost his race seat at Sauber, will continue his career in Le Mans-style GT sports car racing in 2013.

Last month, the popular Japanese tested for the closely Ferrari-linked AF Corse sports car team.

He has now inked a deal to contest this year's World Endurance Championship at the wheel of a Ferrari 458.

"It's an honor for me to become part of the Ferrari family," said Kobayashi.

Mercedes lets Hamilton keep helmets, trophies
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has revealed that part of his new Mercedes deal is being allowed to keep his helmets and trophies.

Although some see his move as 'leaving home' after years of grooming at McLaren, or simply seeking a better financial deal, the Briton last year insisted McLaren's refusal to let him keep his helmets and trophies was a deep frustration.

"The question is, do we get trophies (in 2013)?" Hamilton laughed, according to the Express newspaper.

"Great, I get to keep my trophies, oh shoot, I don't have any," he joked.

"It was a small thing, but small things matter, like my helmets.

"It (his helmet) has my sweat, blood and tears in it so that is why I want to keep that," explained Hamilton.

"Now I keep them and my trophies are my trophies."

Although some still question whether McLaren-to-Mercedes was the wisest career choice for Hamilton, he insists he is enjoying life at the German team.

"I have come from a place with a lot of control, a really controlled environment where you are restricted to do and say what you are told," said Hamilton.

He revealed that he began to relax towards the end of 2012, once he had decided to leave McLaren.

"I was able to loosen up and put on the performances I put on," he claimed.

Schumacher back at speed on two wheels
(GMM)  Despite vowing never to race on two wheels again, Michael Schumacher is back on the saddle of a powerful racing motorcycle.

German reports say the newly re-retired seven time world champion tried to keep his test outing this week at the Valencia circuit strictly secret.

But DPA news agency, and other news outlets, say Schumacher was definitely at full speed on a 220 horse power Honda, with the Holzhauer team.

In 2009 - during his first retirement from F1 - Schumacher was seriously injured when he crashed a similar bike.

It prevented him from filling in for Felipe Massa following the Brazilian's Hungaroring qualifying crash, and Schumacher vowed never to return to full speed on two wheels again.

His manager Sabine Kehm says now: "Yes, he rides motorcycles again but he will not race anymore."

Speed Week claims Schumacher's best test lap at Valencia was only 4 seconds slower than the very best motorcycle racers in action on the same day.

Schumacher has revealed he will be watching this weekend's F1 season opener from the comfort of his lounge.

"I'm obviously still closely connected to the Mercedes team," he told his website this week, "but not in a specific role and not at the track."

Boullier admits to saving Grosjean from axe
(GMM)  Eric Boullier, Lotus' team boss, has admitted he intervened personally to rescue protege Romain Grosjean's F1 career at the end of last year.

Lotus openly considered ousting the French driver, after he was banned by the FIA in Monza and angrily denounced a 'first lap nutcase' by rival Mark Webber.

But countryman Boullier thought Grosjean, in spite of his tumultuous 2012, deserved another chance.

"This is a boy who has the privilege of being one of the fastest drivers in the world," he told Le Figaro newspaper.

"But this is an uncompromising world that does not allow many mistakes.  He still has to learn, but he must do so quickly," said Boullier.

"I think if I had not been here, he would not be here today," he admitted.

Grosjean said he knows very well that he has been given a second chance - "three (chances), if you count my debut in 2009" - and that his mistakes might not be so easily forgiven now.

"There are only 22 drivers on the grid and the competition is huge," he said.

"We have discussed it with the management this winter and they've set goals for me to keep.  I know now what I have to do to maintain their trust," said Grosjean.

He admits Boullier played a big role in rescuing his career.

"We have a mutual trust, but he is my boss.  And because of that, he cannot defend me forever," smiled Grosjean.

"I do know he did a lot for me to be here."

FIA vice president loses license for drunk-driving
(GMM)  Carlos Gracia, a vice-president of F1's governing FIA, has lost his license for drunk-driving.

Spain's El Confidential reports that the Spanish motor racing chief was pulled over in the Aragon region last October.

The 72-year-old failed the breath test, the report added.

A court has taken away Gracia's license for a period of eight months.  The German-language Speed Week claims he also lost his license for the same reason in 1966 and 2003.

"We all make mistakes, and on that day (in 2012) I made one," he is quoted as saying.

"I was at my sister's birthday party, I was not feeling well and I had a glass too much to drink.

"The police stopped me, I did not have an accident but my alcohol level was too high," said Gracia.

2013 tires better than last year's - Alguersuari
(GMM)  Jaime Alguersuari has leapt to Pirelli's defense, claiming this year's tires are actually better than the 2012 range.

Throughout the winter, tales of disintegrating tires have raised alarm up and down the paddock, with some predicting handfuls of pitstops come Melbourne.

Speaking on Austrian television Servus TV, Pirelli test driver Alguersuari admitted there is a "big difference" between last year's tires and the 2013 range.

But he said: "They last longer and are more efficient.

"We will see much more stable tires than last year, but that doesn't mean races will be decided with one pitstop.

"All the compounds are one step softer this year," added Alguersuari.

Indeed, it is now widely acknowledged that although Pirelli's new tires did not work well on the Spanish test tracks this winter, that is because the temperatures were simply too cold.

"So I am going to try not to judge them yet," laughed quadruple world champion Alain Prost, according to sports.fr.

"At least everybody is in the same boat, so it could be an interesting show," added the F1 legend.

Indeed, Pirelli's motor sport director Paul Hembery has been saying again and again than everything will be different come Australia, where temperatures will be much higher.

"But he probably has not read the weather forecast for the weekend," noted Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Gruner.

Tuesday is stiflingly hot in Melbourne, but temperatures are set to drop to the low 20s on Saturday and Sunday, with the chance of showers.

Hulkenberg tipped to win Melbourne opener
(GMM)  Hans-Joachim Stuck, the motor racing boss for the German federation as well as Volkswagen, has picked a curious favorite for this weekend's 2013 season opener.

"I think Nico Hulkenberg will win the first race in Melbourne," he said on Austrian television Servus TV.

"In my eyes, Sauber is the dark horse.  It's a nice car and many in the paddock have said the same after the tests.

"And Nico has what it takes," added Stuck.

Team founder Peter Sauber, however, is not so sure, writing in his column for Sonntagsblick that he sees his Hinwil based team "in the midfield" this year.

"As in 2012, it will be extremely close," he wrote.

Patrick Head, the co-founder and former technical boss of the modern Williams team, agrees.

"The one thing you can say is that Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber have all taken steps forward," he wrote in a column for the Guardian.

"It looks to me as though all of these four teams have produced a very sound car."

Flavio Briatore, the former Renault chief, says the fact the midfield teams are now starting to push the frontrunners is evidence that budgets should be drastically slashed.

"Often now you see a Lotus or a Sauber, with more or less the same budget - EUR 90 to 100 million - really compete and maybe even beat McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull (and) Mercedes who have budgets three times higher," he told Sky Italia.

"You could make a formula one with very different numbers and have cars closer together and a better show," the controversial Italian added.

Indeed, Head points out that with the status quo, it will be difficult for the likes of struggling backmackers Caterham and Marussia to ever catch up, even to the midfield.

"It is not easy," he said.

"Williams have got about 480 people in their team and they do a lot of manufacturing in-house.  It is quite difficult for Caterham and Marussia to come in and be a team with that sort of set-up."

Mother says Raikkonen's comeback 'a surprise'
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen's mother says her son is once again enjoying formula one, after his rallying sabbatical in 2010 and 2011.

The famous Finn burst back into F1 with Lotus last year, earning legions of new fans who enjoy his unique personality, and finishing a surprise third in the world championship.

Raikkonen's mother, Paula, said she was surprised late in 2011 when she read rumors her 33-year-old son was thinking about returning to F1.

"I had heard rumors of his talks with Williams, so I asked him about it," she is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"He said he would prefer to go to Lotus, because it was a better option for him.  It was a surprise," she said.

"His friends had told me that he stopped formula one because he was tired (of it), and then suddenly he went back.

"I think the little break was a good thing, because now he seems to be enjoying the racing again," she added.

'Being a Webber' not enough - Villeneuve
(GMM)  Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne need to really shine if they are to be promoted by Red Bull.

That is the claim of Jacques Villeneuve, the outspoken 1997 world champion turned television pundit.

Youngsters Ricciardo and Vergne have been given a second full season each at Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso, but Villeneuve thinks they face a tough task to prove they should be slotted in for 2014 alongside Sebastian Vettel.

"They would need at least a podium," the 41-year-old French Canadian is quoted by RMC Sport.

"Vettel got there because he won a race with Toro Rosso.  Many young drivers have been there (Toro Rosso) and most of them did nothing.

"Vergne needs to show that he is able to stand out; to be like Alonso or Vettel," added Villeneuve.  "Being a Webber is not enough."

McLaren chose money over talent for 2013 - Watson
(GMM)  John Watson has accused his former team McLaren of effectively hiring a pay-driver to replace Lewis Hamilton in 2013.

Ulsterman Watson, a McLaren winner three decades ago, thinks McLaren was tempted by team newcomer Sergio Perez's connections to the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

"Politically they have always tried to employ the best possible drivers who were available.  Not who they could afford but who were available," he told the Guardian.

"There were other options and some of those were probably ones I would have gone for," said Watson, who said Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen would have been better choices in his opinion.

"Unfortunately they've ended up with Perez and the fact he's associated with Carlos Slim will have some value to McLaren," he continued.

"McLaren have always sought the best talent and clearly that is not the case right now," the 66-year-old Briton added.

Mateschitz wouldn't stop Vettel leaving
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz insists he would let Sebastian Vettel go if the German ever asked to leave the team.

Rising to the top of Formula One in recent years, Vettel has often been linked to a move to the Ferrari.

And the triple World Champ and his team have denied he's leaving, Mateschitz says he would understand if the time ever came.

"If it would not work out with us anymore it would be senseless to try to keep him just because of a valid contract," the Austrian told Autosport.

"If I were an F1 driver, my desire would certainly be to become a Ferrari driver.

"But right now this is no issue."

The 68-year-old also weighed in on Mark Webber's Red Bull career, saying the reigning World Champs are "lucky" to have a driver of his caliber teaming up with Vettel.

"In some races he can show his full potential," Mateschitz said.

"It is difficult for him to come up against Sebastian, but the team guarantees equal material and treatment for both drivers.

"When Mark is in his best shape, he is even hard for Sebastian to beat. We are lucky we have two real number ones." Planet F1

Ricciardo vows to thrash Vergne in 2013
(GMM)  Daniel Ricciardo has vowed to thrash Jean-Eric Vergne in 2013, proving he deserves to graduate to the world championship-winning Red Bull team.

Once good friends, the Toro Rosso pair recently admitted the fire of their rivalry had driven them apart.

"No, we don't see each other away from the track and we are not friends," Vergne, 22, confirmed last month.

There is a lot at stake.  Mark Webber's Red Bull contract runs out at the end of the year, but history has proved that almost no Toro Rosso juniors have gone on to succeed at the senior team.

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve said this week: "Vergne needs to show that he is able to stand out; to be like Alonso or Vettel.

"Being a Webber is not enough."

It is for that reason that Ricciardo, 23, admitted in Australia on Tuesday that 2013 is an important season for his career.

"Yes, it is," he is quoted by WA Today.

"I think the best thing I can do this year is obviously try to beat the Frenchman convincingly and if it sets me up for a seat at Red Bull or elsewhere, I think that's just what I have to try to target."

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