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

  • Hamilton thought he was too good for Mercedes
    Hamilton 'rolled his eyes' at Mercedes option - Ecclestone
  • Pirelli to change tires if 'unanimously' asked
  • Grosjean to be father
  • Time has arrived for Ferrari title - Domenicali
  • Whitmarsh fails to 'kill' 2012 car comeback rumors
  • Alonso better than Vettel 'disrespectful' - Button
  • Vettel denies signing 2016 Red Bull extension
  • 'No superstars at Lotus' - boss Boullier
  • Ecclestone, the French race circuit and the real story behind that $44m 'bribe’
  • Horner: Internal discussions to be held New
  • Webber: Unfortunately there’s no rewind button New

Hamilton 'rolled his eyes' at Mercedes option - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton wanted to be Sebastian Vettel's teammate at Red Bull this year, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

Ultimately, the 2008 world champion left McLaren but joined Mercedes.

Ten days ago, however, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner revealed that Hamilton's first choice may have been different.

"It (Hamilton joining) wouldn't have been right for the team," Horner had said in Melbourne.

"I have great admiration for the talent he has but I don't think Lewis and Sebastian would be the right combination."

Red Bull opted instead to renew Mark Webber's contract for another year, which according to Ecclestone was because of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's loyalty to the veteran Australian.

"Dietrich is a very honest, straightforward guy and told Mark the door was open for him to stay," Ecclestone told the Daily Mail from London, having skipped the opening Australia-Malaysia double header of 2013.

"That was good of him," the F1 chief executive added.

Had 36-year-old Webber retired, however, it would have been a different story.

"Dietrich would have signed Lewis," said Ecclestone.  "Sebastian wouldn't have cared if Lewis had signed for the team."

But with the Red Bull door closed to Hamilton, Ecclestone revealed he personally advised the highly rated British driver to consider Mercedes.

"Why not talk to Mercedes, Lewis?" he recalls saying.

"Lewis rolled his eyes ... but I told him that he had nothing to lose as he wanted out of McLaren," said Ecclestone.

Pirelli to change tires if 'unanimously' asked
(GMM)  Pressure is mounting on F1 supplier Pirelli to change its tires.

It is being whispered ever louder in the Sepang paddock that Red Bull, Mercedes and perhaps other teams are pushing hard for the Italian supplier to amend the heavily-degrading tires supplied so far in 2013 in Australia and Malaysia.

"There are definitely signs about a change of the compound," Mercedes' Toto Wolff is quoted by SID news agency.

"In all probability, either in Bahrain or maybe after (the new tires will appear)."

Pirelli's Paul Hembery, however, said the marque will only look to change tack if the teams "unanimously" demand it.

"That (unanimity) is definitely not the case," he insisted.

"If we do something, and suddenly two or three cars are no longer competitive but some others are suddenly faster, then we just have a new problem.

"We are analyzing the situation," Pirelli is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, "but there is still no decision."

And spox.com quotes him adding: "Many teams want to change the situation to their advantage.  If we feel we need to change something, we will."

The basis of Mercedes and Red Bull's argument is that, according to their analysis, the tires wear out faster on the cars that have the most downforce.

That, they claim, is a safety issue.

"(The) fact is that the tires are not only developing extreme degradation after only a few laps, but big chunks quarry out," Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko told F1's official website.

"So this looks like there is an issue with the basics of the tires.  Note, the tires have these problems -- not us."

So rather than rush back to Milton-Keynes to make improvements to the car that will perhaps make it slower, Marko said the priority for Red Bull is to "sit down with Pirelli".

As for the claim that Lotus is doing so well because its 2010 car - the Renault R30 - is now used by Pirelli as its test mule, Hembery dismissed it as a "conspiracy theory (that is) not based on fact".

And a Lotus source is quoted by Italy's La Stampa: "If our car was like 2010, we would be in bad shape."

Grosjean to be father
(GMM)  Romain Grosjean will soon be a father.

After his new wife Marion Jolles - who met Grosjean whilst a F1 television reporter - was spotted apparently pregnant, the French Lotus driver confirmed the news.

He said their baby is due in the summer.

"We are absolutely delighted," said the 26-year-old.

But according to Swiss journalist Roger Benoit, of the Blick newspaper, Lotus is apparently "not very happy about it, because (the team thinks) he should concentrate on the sport".

Meanwhile, former Marussia driver Timo Glock's newly born first child - a son borne by his partner Isabell - has been named Mika.

Time has arrived for Ferrari title - Domenicali
(GMM)  The time has arrived for Ferrari to deliver its first title since 2007.

That is the forthright assessment of team boss Stefano Domenicali, who since taking over from Jean Todt has come close but failed to deliver the coveted title to the fabled Italian team.

Asked how important it is for success to finally come in 2013, he told Germany's Die Welt newspaper: "Very important.

"Now is definitely the time for us to win instead of losing it in the very last race.

"If you are Ferrari, you are obliged to win, and myself and everyone in the team is committed to the great name and tradition.

"We feel this pressure as normal and accept the high expectations, which is both a great responsibility and a great honor.

"I believe there is no other formula one team in the same situation."

Meanwhile, Italian Domenicali said he acknowledges the great step forward made by Mercedes in 2013.

And he does not believe Lewis Hamilton's claim that he has ruled out the 2013 title chase.

"If Lewis Hamilton says it is over for 2013, I have to conclude that his car is very good," said Domenicali.

"Otherwise, why would he say something unnecessary like this?"

Whitmarsh fails to 'kill' 2012 car comeback rumors
(GMM)  Martin Whitmarsh has failed yet again to "kill off" suggestions McLaren will ultimately scrap the 2013 car and revert to the winning model of last season.

Committed logistically to taking the struggling new MP4-28 to the Australia-Malaysia double header, the British team appears to have taken a small step forward this weekend.

Whitmarsh is now suggesting a further improved 2013 car will be raced in China in three weeks.

"Everything is an option," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport when asked the old question about the possible return of the 2012 car.

"But we have made some initial progress and I believe up to China we will make some more.

"I believe we can make this car a winning one, it just might take longer than we like."

Jenson Button apparently agrees, saying qualifying in Malaysia "just two tenths off the guy (Kimi Raikkonen)" who won in Australia "can't be bad".

"We have made great progress in five days," he added.

Still, the rumors about the 2012 car persist, even though Whitmarsh insists there is nothing "fundamentally" flawed - or unfixable - about the MP4-28.

The team boss was asked on Saturday if he can "kill off" the 2012 car speculation.

"I can kill it off for the time being," he told reporters.  "We have made a clear decision and we are working hard to understand this car in order to improve it and turn it into a race-winning one."

His message is clear -- if fixing the MP4-28 falters, the MP4-27 is always there.

"The fact is," continued Whitmarsh, "we took too long to realize (the mistakes with the MP4-28) and we are responding now."

Button commented: "I've been with teams before where we have spent the year fighting but without improving.  That is not McLaren."

Sir Jackie Stewart backed the Woking based team to succeed eventually.

"They've got too much technology," he told AP news agency, "too much knowledge, too much experience not to get it right."

Alonso better than Vettel 'disrespectful' - Button
(GMM)  Jenson Button has admitted he feels uncomfortable about the general perception that Fernando Alonso is better than the Spaniard's recent title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Asked by Spanish sports newspaper AS to describe his former McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton, Button said: "Lewis is extremely fast, a great driver.

"I've been asked this a lot.  I'm tired of these questions," Button insisted.

Told, however, that Alonso shares his high opinion of Hamilton, Button answered: "Yes, Fernando always says positive things about Lewis.  He loves Lewis," the McLaren driver laughed.

"Sometimes the compliments are even returned," added Button.

Told that it is all just 'psychological warfare' in the battle to dethrone reigning triple world champion Vettel, Button said: "I don't know, you'd have to ask them.

"It (mind games) is not something that interests me.

"I don't know if Fernando is a better driver than Sebastian.  No one knows.  We are a group of drivers and if you say that one is better, in this case Alonso (or) Vettel, then that is disrespectful.

"You have to respect everyone, but obviously some (are respected) more than others."

Vettel denies signing 2016 Red Bull extension
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has played down multiple reports that he has signed a Red Bull contract extension through 2016.

Asked if he has added two more years to his current deal, the reigning world champion answered: "I do not talk about contracts."

But Bild am Sonntag reporter Frank Schneider pointed out that Vettel pointedly "shook his head" as he made his standard answer, indicating that he is yet to agree a new deal.

"But I said nothing!" the German driver laughed, admitting his "body language" may have been different.

Having previously said he wanted to join Ferrari one day, Vettel was nonetheless asked by Schneider if he is now open to staying at Red Bull for the rest of his career.

"Could be.  Depends on how long my career is," Vettel answered mysteriously.

Asked when he will decide what to do beyond his 2014 contract, he continued: "In this case, probably no later than early 2015.  Not today, anyway."

Also leaving the door open is Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.

Asked by Germany's Welt if Vettel is a potential candidate, the Italian answered: "This is far in the future.

"I have no idea and it depends on both sides.  It's not a relevant issue at the moment."

'No superstars at Lotus' - boss Boullier
(GMM)  Team boss Eric Boullier says he has created a team structure that does not rely on hugely-paid "superstars".

He is referring to the staff at Enstone, the former home of title-winning Benetton and Renault, now charging back to the top of F1 as Lotus.

Frenchman Boullier runs the team for Genii, a Luxembourg private equity group that bought the works Renault team when Fernando Alonso and Flavio Briatore departed in 2009.

"First I had to restructure the group," he told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"People who never had the opportunity to show their best work got their chance.  I asked them to be creative."

He said he promoted from within, or signed up people from other teams who were fettered by the higher profiles of their bosses.

"It's a pleasure to see them work with us," smiled Boullier, "especially because we do not have the money to pay really high wages.

"We pay less than half what Red Bull pays."

But it's paying off.  Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of 2013, and the Lotus E21 is now regarded as the kindest car on its tires in the new Pirelli-dominated performance era.

"Now, our professionals are being courted by our adversaries," said Boullier, undoubtedly referring to technical director James Allison, who reportedly was approached by McLaren.

"But with our structure, if one of them should leave, the organization is not affected.  There are always several people waiting for their chance.

"We have no superstars in Lotus," insisted Boullier.

He said his first target - setting up a good team structure - has been achieved.  The second was to win races.

"The next step is to win the championship," he continued.  "And then to challenge for the title regularly."

Ecclestone, the French race circuit and the real story behind that $44m 'bribe’
Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has revealed for the first time details of how he was allegedly blackmailed for $44m (£29m) by jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

Mr. Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison in Munich last year for receiving $44m from Mr. Ecclestone and his offshore Bambino family trust.

A court in Munich ruled that Mr. Gribkowsky was paid the money in return for steering the sale of F1 to its current owner, private equity firm CVC, in 2006. Mr. Ecclestone has not been charged with any wrongdoing and in his witness testimony he denied that the payment was a bribe.

He said that Mr. Gribkowsky threatened to tip off HM Revenue & Customs with false details about his tax affairs if the money was not paid.

However, until now Mr. Ecclestone has not revealed details of the threat that Mr. Gribkowsky allegedly used to get the $44m.

Mr. Ecclestone now reveals that it centered on the Paul Ricard circuit, a race track near Marseille which hosted the French Grand Prix in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1999 it was bought by Excelis, a French company which was ultimately owned by Bambino. An extensive renovation involving 1,200 workers was carried out to transform the circuit into a hi-tech test track.

This work was coordinated by Philippe Gurdjian, the chairman of Excelis, along with Mr. Ecclestone, and he says this formed the basis of Mr. Gribkowsky’s threat.

“I helped the people that own the circuit in Ricard, it belongs to the trust,” says Mr. Ecclestone. “I helped them and told them the sort of hospital they should build and even the sort of car run-off areas they should build. Gribkowsky said, I ran the trust and this is one example.”

The Liechtenstein-based Bambino trust was established in December 1997 by Mr. Ecclestone’s Croatian ex-wife, Slavica, who is one of its three beneficiaries along with their two daughters.

Its key assets were shares in FOCA Administration, which directly held the rights to F1 and was previously wholly owned by Mr. Ecclestone.

He says he was advised to transfer his shares in it to his former wife because she had not lived in the UK long enough to be domiciled. Accordingly, if Mr. Ecclestone had died, she would have had to pay 40pc inheritance tax on money received from him, even though spouses are usually exempt.

Mr. Ecclestone is 82 and during the late 1990s he suffered from heart problems which led to him having a triple bypass operation in 1999.

This was the driving force behind the creation of the trust. As a UK taxpayer, Mr. Ecclestone was not allowed control over the trust, otherwise it could be declared a sham and tax would have to be paid on it.

The reason for this lies in a clause in the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988, which has since been carried over to the Income Tax Act 2007.

It states that if a UK resident transfers assets to a non-domicile and income becomes payable to the non-domicile, the transferor must not at any time have “the power to enjoy” that income, otherwise it will be deemed to have been his own.

Mr. Ecclestone says that his unique experience and position at the helm of F1 made him the best man for the job. He adds that it was not an exception. “Like most circuits in the world, they asked me for help,” he says.

In his witness statement, Mr. Ecclestone said that, although there was no substance behind Mr. Gribkowsky’s allegation, he was concerned HMRC might take it seriously and that it “might cause them to assess me to owe a tax bill of many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds that I believe I did not owe”.

He added that it would have put “the burden of proof on me to prove that the authorities were wrong in their assessment, and therefore I acquiesced in his demand for these payments”.

Mr. Ecclestone says he thinks Mr. Gribkowsky deserved to be imprisoned for this.

“I tell you what Gribkowsky should have been locked up for. He shook me down and put me in a position that I believed perhaps he was going to do what he was saying he could do, even if he couldn’t,” Mr. Ecclestone said.

“So, for sure he should have been punished for that.”

Mr. Ecclestone is still being investigated by the Munich prosecutors and HMRC has opened up an investigation into his affairs. The prospectus for the planned flotation of F1 on the Singapore stock exchange reveals that HMRC does not suspect Mr. Ecclestone of tax evasion but is investigating to see if his payments have been sufficient.

The flotation prospectus states that “Mr. Ecclestone was notified in March 2012 that HMRC in the UK is currently investigating his tax affairs focusing primarily on his connections directly and indirectly to offshore trusts.

“HMRC has informed Mr. Ecclestone that the investigation is being conducted in accordance with Code of Practice 8.

“This is applied in cases where there is no suspicion of tax evasion, but instead HMRC wishes to investigate if any tax planning undertaken by a taxpayer is effective to achieve its intended effect.

“The purpose of the investigation is to identify if there are any amounts of underpaid tax.” The Telegraph

Horner: Internal discussions to be held
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says internal discussions will be held after this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber involved in a controversial battle during the closing stages of the 56-lap race.

Webber, who turned his engine down ahead of what he believed to be a clean run to the checkered flag, was attacked by Vettel in the final stint of the race, with the latter ultimately making a move stick and going on to record his 27th career victory.

"Obviously there’s an awful lot of debate about what happened at the end of the race," Horner said of his drivers' late on-track fight. "Our position after that final pit-stop was all about managing the race until the end and conserving our tires, getting the cars to the finish and achieving maximum points.

"Unfortunately drivers’ interests can sometimes come into conflict with the teams’. Sebastian decided to take things into his own hands today and race Mark. It’s frustrating. Formula 1 is both a team and an individual sport and sometimes there is a conflict between a driver’s desire and a team’s interest.

"What happened today is something that shouldn’t have happened. It’s something that Sebastian has apologized for and it’s something that we will discuss internally."

With Red Bull claiming its first one-two finish of the season, the outfit moves into a clear Constructors' lead with a total of 66 points, 26 more than Ferrari and Lotus.

Webber: Unfortunately there’s no rewind button
The Red Bull RB9 was the car to have at the Malaysian Grand Prix, clearly the class of the field they were destined to win, and up to a certain point it appeared that Mark Webber would bag maximum points until Sebastian Vettel decided differently, defying team orders to challenge and beat his teammate and win the race.

From the moment he stepped on the podium Webber was not happy – make that Webber was livid – with what had transpired and told the world champion in no uncertain terms that he was out of order before declaring live on TV from the podium, “In the end, Seb made his own decisions today. And he’ll be protected as usual.”

The Australian, who at 36 is the oldest driver in the field, said after Vettel apologized and admitted his mistake, “I think Sebastian has respect for me and I have respect for him, but the situation today was not handled well. It’s hard to put your finger on it all now after the race; when we’re racing on the limit and pushing as hard as we can, then it’s the worst situation for a team.”

“I am sure they are bricking themselves and know that things can go wrong. There’s a bit of history to this as well; my mind in the last 15 laps was thinking about a lot of things, but I was happy with the way I drove,” reflected the Australian.

“I tried to isolate what happened at the end and we got something out of it today, but of course I’m not satisfied with the result. This puts heat on a few people and unfortunately there’s no rewind button. I know people want raw emotion from us after these situations and it’s there, but we need to remain cool. There’s three weeks until the next race, so time for us to work on things.”

Webber hinted he would head back to Australia and hit the water on his surf board for some thinking time.

“That’ll be my medicine. We’ll see if the medicine cures it,” he added.

Webber’s father Allan told Sky Sports: “He’s not a happy camper how he deals with it down the line we’ll have to see, I think he’ll be throwing a few toys around later. It was a frustrating day but I think he deserved better. Today we didn’t think we’d be on the podium, so a one-two is a great day. I am just disappointed it’s not my boy who is number one.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said, “They took it into their own hands, which was uncomfortable for us – we gave them instructions to hold station but Sebastian took it into his own hands to win the race – he wanted to win. It’s difficult when you have two competitive drivers like ours.

“It’s difficult to watch because you could end up giving up 43 points. You have to remember there’s two elements to F1 – there’s a drivers’ championship and a constructors’ championship,” added Horner. YallaF1.com

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