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DATE News (chronologically)
04/19/13
f1
Latest F1 news in brief - Friday (UPDATED)  UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

04/19/13
  • Controversial 'Dinner with Friends' photo scoffed
    Webber, Alonso, Vettel scoff at 'dinner photo' news
  • Ecclestone shakes up F1 paddock
  • F1 should not be singling out Bahrain controversy - Alonso
  • Raikkonen 'very happy' with 2014 contract talks - Boullier
  • Hamilton backs Brawn amid Lowe rumors
  • McLaren threw Hamilton out of team garage
  • Perez admits early McLaren criticism 'amazing'
  • Kovalainen denies stalking Caterham race seat
  • Bahrain seeking season-opening slot, Ecclestone open to the idea New
  • Raikkonen happy with 2014 contract talks New
  • Pirelli to make only minor tire changes after Bahrain New

Webber, Alonso, Vettel scoff at 'dinner photo' news
(GMM)  Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and even Sebastian Vettel were all busy in Bahrain playing down the "dinner with friends" photo posted on Twitter this week.

The photo was posted by Ferrari's Spaniard Alonso but then deleted, but not before Red Bull's Webber 'retweeted' it.

It depicted Alonso and Webber out for dinner in Dubai, which excited some sections of the media who thought it a deliberate jibe at their common enemy, Vettel.

Vettel insisted he failed to see the significance.

"Were they naked?" he asked reporters mischievously.  "We all need to eat, but I would rather than I was not there."

Webber, at the centre of sabotage rumors and claims he might quit F1 for Porsche next year, accused the media of "paranoia".

"I have known Fernando for 13 years," he said.  "Many drivers catch up socially.  I may meet up here with Jenson (Button).  And why shouldn't I?

"We have social lives too!

"If that's the biggest subject, you guys (reporters) are in trouble to be honest."

Alonso also pointed a finger at the overactive minds of journalists.

"In Spain we say 'The thief thinks everyone is a thief'," he said.

"If I see a photo of someone having dinner I think he's having dinner.

"But when I put it on Twitter, all the replies were about Vettel and stuff like that.  Those are conspiracy theorists," the Ferrari driver added.

"The truth is that Mark and I have known each other for 13 years and we have the same manager.  We talked about cycling, not F1."

Still, the 'Multi-21' affair rolls on.  German motor racing chief Hans-Joachim Stuck said he thinks the relationship between Vettel and Vettel is now close to untenable.

"If Webber gets the chance to wipe Vettel out, I can imagine him doing so," he is quoted by SID news agency.

"A fight like that is not what is needed.  Teammates need to challenge each other, but it has to be fair and friendly," added Stuck.

Meanwhile, Webber categorically denied rumors he has already decided to quit F1 for Le Mans in 2014.

"You can ask anybody in my camp if we know what I am doing next year -- we don't!" he is quoted by F1's official website.

Ecclestone shakes up F1 paddock
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has shaken up the F1 paddock.

Observing that drivers were in the habit of simply walking a few steps from the teams' hospitality areas straight into the garages, the sport's chief executive thought about how to spice up the action in the paddock.

Now, starting with this weekend in Bahrain, the drivers and leading team figures are in some cases having to walk from one end of the paddock to the other to get from their teams' hospitality suites to the corresponding pit area.

It is music to the ears of the media, giving reporters and television crews more of a chance to catch F1's leading players on the hop in the paddock.

"McLaren is the worst off," reported France's RMC Sport, "because the drivers have to cross almost the entire paddock to get from the paddock hospitality to the garage."

F1 should not be singling out Bahrain controversy - Alonso
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso has played down the significance of this weekend's Bahrain grand prix, suggesting the sport should not be picking which of its host countries' controversies to weight into.

The Spaniard was asked in the island Kingdom on Thursday if formula one should be in Bahrain amid protests against the government.

"If we start to look into that," the Ferrari driver is quoted by El Pais newspaper, "then when we go to China we should be concerned about what happens in their factories.

"Or what about India, where it is said that children are exploited, or Spain where there is political corruption?" added Alonso.

Protesters around Bahrain were on Thursday burning tires for makeshift roadblocks, and it is reported "huge" demonstrations are planned to coincide with Friday's practice sessions.

But an unnamed senior official of an F1 team told the Financial Times: "We are more stoic, more phlegmatic (than last year)."

An FIA spokesman added: "If there is some sort of unrest outside the circuit, it will be for the local authorities to handle."

Raikkonen 'very happy' with 2014 contract talks - Boullier
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen is moving closer to committing to Lotus for the 2014 season, according to team boss Eric Boullier.

The Frenchman was playing down reports Red Bull has expressed interest in signing the 2007 world champion to replace Mark Webber next year.

"These are the usual games," Boullier told Bild newspaper, "but it's not just Red Bull.  Other top teams have interest too.

"But I'm also interested in Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, although only Vettel if he listens to my team orders," he laughed.

"We have already spoken with Kimi about a contract extension and he sounded very happy."

In truth, however, with Finn Raikkonen's stock on the rise after impressive form in the wake of his rallying sabbatical, Lotus might struggle to afford the 33-year-old for 2014.

It is reported that team owner Genii has put a part of the Enstone based team on the market, with Gerard Lopez admitting it might be some time before a title sponsor is signed up.

Asked if money will factor into Raikkonen's decision, Boullier said: "Kimi doesn't race for the money.

"For him it's very important that he feels at home and has the freedom to be who he is.  So I really see no reason why he should leave.

"I don't know if other teams would treat him as well as we do.  We can definitely afford him," he insisted.

"We have more money than last year," he added.

Hamilton backs Brawn amid Lowe rumors
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has backed Ross Brawn, amid speculation the Mercedes team boss is set to be replaced by McLaren's Paddy Lowe.

Former technical director Lowe is already on 'gardening leave' from his duties at McLaren, and tipped to take over Brawn's management and technical responsibilities at some point in the foreseeable future.

Indeed, the German squad's new director Toto Wolff hinted recently that Lowe is in fact Brawn's "successor", even though pole for Hamilton in China last week might have changed things a bit.

"What happens with Lowe does not mean that Ross will be leaving us," Wolff said in Shanghai.

Now, 2008 world champion Hamilton has come out fighting for Brawn, insisting he wants to continue to work with the 58-year-old Briton because of the good working environment he has created.

"I signed with Ross being here and I'm very happy working with him and the great relationship we are building," the former McLaren driver said in Bahrain.

"Inevitably at some stage he'll want to stop.  Who knows when that'll be.

"I hope it's not too soon and I hope we get to have many victories together."

Hamilton suggested he admired Brawn's fighting spirit not only to improve Mercedes' form but also stay at the helm despite an apparent power struggle with the team's new guard.

"He has absolutely proved a point," said Hamilton.  "He's shown even though he's been in the business a long time he still has that fighting spirit and stuck it out and now it's coming good."

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso suggested it is Hamilton who is the key to Mercedes' boosted form in 2013, having arrived from McLaren over the winter.

"Last year," said the Spaniard, "Lewis put McLaren in a very competitive position and now he is putting Mercedes in a very competitive position, so he's proving his talent once more."

And Hamilton has returned the compliment, admitting Alonso is going to be hard to beat for the 2013 title after winning in China.

"The best driver has got the quickest car at the moment so that is going to be tough to beat," he said.

McLaren threw Hamilton out of team garage
(GMM)  McLaren threw Lewis Hamilton out of its garage during one of February's winter tests, the 2008 world champion claims.

Briton Hamilton, 28, rose through the junior ranks with the famous British team's backing, made his debut for McLaren in 2007 and won all of his 21 wins and his title with the Woking based squad.

But over the winter, he switched camps to Mercedes.

In a bid to keep his McLaren relationship alive, however, Hamilton said he tried to visit his old friends at Jerez on February, during the winter test period.

"I went to see them (McLaren) in Australia," he told F1's official website.

"But I also tried to see them in Jerez, at the test, and there (sporting director) Sam Michael threw me out of the garage.

"That wasn't very positive and I don't feel very good about that."

Hamilton is believed to have fallen out badly with former mentor and McLaren supremo Ron Dennis, but he says his relationship with Martin Whitmarsh is intact.

"Martin has been great," he said, "and I have to say that I haven't had enough contact, so I will give Martin a call."

Perez admits early McLaren criticism 'amazing'
(GMM)  The pressure is showing on Sergio Perez, as the Mexican admitted he found boss Martin Whitmarsh's criticism in the wake of last weekend's Chinese grand prix "quite amazing".

Albeit with an uncompetitive McLaren, 23-year-old Perez has struggled to fill departed Lewis Hamilton's shoes so far this season.

He had a particularly bad weekend in Shanghai recently, earning a rebuke from Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton agreeing the Mexican was "all over the place" in China.

Faced with the criticism, McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh agreed that Perez needs to "toughen up".

"I think he's been generous in allowing people past him," he said.

"With these sorts of tires that are very fragile, with a car that's not quite there and tricky racing, I think he did a reasonable job but he's not satisfied with himself and nor should he be," added Whitmarsh.

In fairness, Whitmarsh also said he continues to support McLaren's new signing, but on Thursday Perez countered by admitting he has "definitely felt the pressure" so far in 2013.

"At McLaren everyone is watching your performance at every single practice session and every single race," he told reporters.

"I find it quite amazing that after three weekends, when I had two good weekends in terms of maximizing the car potential, that after a bad weekend I received so many criticisms.

"But I think this is quite normal and usual for a team like McLaren," added Perez.

"I'm never thinking about it and if I am totally honest I am not bothered about it.  I am here to do my job and I will try my best this weekend and the next 16 weekends."

He admitted that China, filled with incidents from the first laps on Friday until the checkered flag, was his worst performance so far.

"Jenson (Button) has been extremely difficult to beat," said Perez.  "In China, I was quite off the pace from him.  Never got close to him.

"With the car we have he is doing an extremely good job, you have to say."

Kovalainen denies stalking Caterham race seat
(GMM)  Heikki Kovalainen has denied he has been lured back to Caterham on the prospect of a race seat in the near future.

Having been dropped from the team's race lineup for 2013, the 31-year-old initially ruled out a reserve driver role, and in the past weeks has been indulging his passion for golf whilst remaining race-fit for formula one.

But he has now re-emerged at Caterham in a reserve role, and will drive on Friday mornings in Bahrain and Barcelona to back-to-back test the upgraded car.

The Finn denied, however, that he has changed his mind because the prospect of a race seat is now looming.

"There's no plans to race at the moment," he said in Bahrain.

"The plan for me at the moment is to drive Fridays and help the team."

Kovalainen said he was convinced to return simply because it was better than the alternative.

"We talked about this for the first time a long time ago," he explained.  "At the very beginning I wasn't interested in this type of role.

"But when you're sitting at home for a couple of months watching other people drive the car, it makes you think 'I'd actually like to have a go'.

"Just before Malaysia, I had a chat with Tony (Fernandes) and I said 'Do you think I could do something for the team still?  The idea we had earlier?'

"And he said 'sure'," Kovalainen revealed.

He played down suggestions his presence could be seen as him stalking the race seats currently occupied by Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, who have struggled to compete with their Marussia rivals so far in 2013.

"Naturally, if I'm pushing then hopefully that makes them even quicker," said Kovalainen.

"But they've already done a good job this year; the car is not easy to drive.

"It's just that I have more experience about setting up the car, especially a fresh feel for this particular car.  I think that's the main thing," he added.

"The guys don't necessarily know how good this car could be or if it is at the maximum right now.  This is where we're giving them guidance -- trying different things and seeing if we can make it a more balanced car."

Ultimately, however, Kovalainen could not deny that his real ambition is to race again.

"Of course I want to race," he said.  "Being here puts me in a better position if a race drive ever becomes available here or even somewhere else."

Bahrain seeking season-opening slot, Ecclestone open to the idea
(GMM)  Organizers of the Bahrain grand prix would like the event to return to the top of F1's annual schedule.

The Sakhir circuit opened the sport's world championship in 2006 and again in 2010, and was scheduled to be the season opener in 2011 until that event was cancelled due to civil unrest.

Still controversial, Bahrain is back on the calendar and now pushing to return to the coveted opening spot, which is currently occupied by Melbourne.

"It's a good start to the season," circuit chairman Zeyed Alzayani told reporters on Saturday.

"It gives us the chance to have the teams here longer, there is more anticipation, more unknowns, how the cars will react to the new tires, the regulations, the drivers are just back into their rhythm.

"We are talking about 2014 onwards but it's a bit early to talk about the calendar for 2014," he added.  "We're open to suggestion."

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who on Saturday issued a joint statement with the FIA backing the decision to race in Bahrain this weekend amid controversy, admitted a change of scheduling for the race in future is possible.

"We could do, I suppose," the 82-year-old told Reuters.  "We need to have a look at it."

Alzayani said one advantage of Bahrain being the first race is that teams could conduct pre-season testing at the circuit, in almost guaranteed dry weather, before returning for the start of the world championship shortly after.

"They can come to the last test and then leave most of their equipment here until race weekend," he said.

"This was the plan in 2011.  So if we go after the first race, then we will go after a test as well but again that is not our decision."

Raikkonen happy with 2014 contract talks
Kimi Raikkonen is moving closer to committing to Lotus for the 2014 season, according to team boss Eric Boullier.

The Frenchman was playing down reports Red Bull has expressed interest in signing the 2007 world champion to replace Mark Webber next year.

"These are the usual games," Boullier told Bild newspaper, "but it's not just Red Bull. Other top teams have interest too.

"But I'm also interested in Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, although only Vettel if he listens to my team orders," he laughed.

"We have already spoken with Kimi about a contract extension and he sounded very happy."

In truth, however, with Finn Raikkonen's stock on the rise after impressive form in the wake of his rallying sabbatical, Lotus might struggle to afford the 33-year-old for 2014.

It is reported that team owner Genii has put a part of the Enstone based team on the market, with Gerard Lopez admitting it might be some time before a title sponsor is signed up.

Asked if money will factor into Raikkonen's decision, Boullier said: "Kimi doesn't race for the money.

"For him it's very important that he feels at home and has the freedom to be who he is. So I really see no reason why he should leave.

"I don't know if other teams would treat him as well as we do. We can definitely afford him," he insisted.

"We have more money than last year," he added.

Pirelli to make only minor tire changes after Bahrain
(GMM)  Pirelli is set to make only minor modifications to its 2013 tires after this weekend's Bahrain grand prix.

It was believed F1's controversial official supplier would make significant changes to this year's heavily-degrading tires for Barcelona and beyond, but Paul Hembery said on Friday that most teams are actually pushing for the status quo.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that, in fact, the only changes will be to the 'hard' and 'soft' compounds, with the 'medium' and 'super-soft' tires to be left untouched.

Correspondent Michael Schmidt said the minor changes to the compounds are designed simply to minimize the amount of graining.

"The final decision will be made on Tuesday in Milan," he wrote on Friday.

Pirelli's Hembery said the hard tires should be working perfectly on a 40 degree track in Bahrain, but actually the circuit is proving too cool for the compound.

"That's why I don't rule out that the working range will be slightly changed for the cooler European races," he confirmed.

Changes to the 'soft' are also possible, but "we'll decide later," Hembery said.

"The construction will be the same, because if we changed that even slightly, the aerodynamics would be affected.

"Red Bull wants a stronger intervention from us, but we can't just do that, because of the other teams.

"The majority of the teams actually want us to do nothing -- Red Bull can't expect us to tailor a tire just for them."

As for the super-soft and medium, "Both tires are doing what we expected of them," said Hembery.

He insisted he cannot understand the strength of some of the criticism so far in 2013.

"No one is able to say before the race who is going to win," said Hembery.  "There are many different strategies, and overtaking.

"I think we have done our job well," he added.

Finally, he thinks Red Bull's campaign of public criticism has actually worked against the reigning champions.

"I think they've just united the other teams against them," said Hembery.

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