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Latest F1 news in brief - Sunday
  • Hamilton hopes to take superior Mercedes to title
    New Kevlar tires 'not terrible' - Grosjean
  • Hamilton not discounting 2013 title tilt
  • Ending slump 'very difficult' for Williams - Villeneuve
  • F1 film 'Rush' excited sport's experts - Lauda
  • De la Rosa would have replaced ill Bianchi - report
  • Alonso says Ferrari back to 'normal

New Kevlar tires 'not terrible' - Grosjean
(GMM)  Although Lotus was initially opposed to the move to Kevlar-belted tires, Romain Grosjean in Germany said the change was actually "not terrible" for the team.

Before the tire-exploding crisis at Silverstone, Lotus was one of a prominent few teams who refused to allow Pirelli to make the mid-season tire construction change.

But with the new tires forced through after the British grand prix, Lotus actually showed good pace at the Nurburgring, with Kimi Raikkonen and Frenchman Grosjean qualifying fourth and fifth.

"We were a little afraid of the tires on paper," Grosjean told RMC, "but it (the construction change) was not necessarily terrible for us.

"It turns out that it's going pretty well."

Lotus engineer Alan Permane agrees: "The new rear construction doesn't appear to be hurting our performance."

But Force India, another team initially resistant to the new tires, has struggled in Germany.

"It's difficult to determine if the change in tire construction has hampered our performance," said deputy team boss Bob Fernley, "but for whatever reason we've not found the sweet spot this weekend."

The third team originally opposing the Kevlar switch was Ferrari, who have had a solid weekend.

But Fernando Alonso said: "This race at the Nurburgring is not very meaningful, because we are only using these tires once.

"It's only in Hungary that we'll know where we are heading," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

Hamilton not discounting 2013 title tilt
(GMM)  Nurburgring pole sitter Lewis Hamilton is not ruling out a 2013 tilt at the world championship.

Having secured back-to-back poles within the space of seven days, and watching his teammate Nico Rosberg win two of the last three grands prix, Hamilton thinks the German team might now be ready to take on Red Bull.

"In my wildest dreams, when I joined Mercedes I did not expect to win the championship in the first year," said the 28-year-old.

"But I really don't know what is realistic at the moment."

Hamilton, the highest-placed Mercedes driver in the drivers' championship, is 43 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton's former teammate Jenson Button, however, doesn't think Mercedes can really challenge Red Bull.

"I don't think Red Bull have a challenger right now," the McLaren driver is quoted by the Sun.

"Mercedes have won two races, so they are up there, but had Vettel finished the race (at Silverstone), he would have won," Button said.

Indeed, even Hamilton acknowledged that Vettel remains the favorite.

"He could go and win the next few races, as he has been winning a lot this year and I have not won once," said the Briton.

Ending slump 'very difficult' for Williams - Villeneuve
(GMM)  Ending its slump will be a "very difficult" task for Williams.

That is the view of the great British team's last world champion, Jacques Villeneuve, who in Germany assessed Williams' current form on the occasion of its 600th grand prix.

In total contrast to 1997, when Williams and French-Canadian Villeneuve were F1's dominant force, the 2013-spec FW35s failed to make it through even the initial 'Q1' qualifying segment on Saturday.

And that was after fire marshals had to be called into the Williams garage to contain a smoky and hazardous KERS battery failure.

Villeneuve, now a television pundit, told Spain's El Pais newspaper: "Williams has to reformulate.

"For many years, the manufacturers were in control, but when they left, the structure remained but not the money," the 42-year-old said at the Nurburgring.

"The sponsors had come because of the manufacturer, and so when they (the carmakers) go, they (the sponsors) go as well.

"That's why it's easy to get pay drivers rather than focus on whether they're fast enough, which ends up turning into a cycle that's very difficult to get out of," added Villeneuve.

Meanwhile, the former Williams and Sauber driver said Mark Webber's departure at Red Bull at the end of the year is good news for the reigning world champion.

"Now everyone will work just for (Sebastian) Vettel, because Webber's leaving anyway," said Villeneuve.

"So his decision to leave will make life easier for everyone."

And when asked what he would do if he was in charge of F1, the unabashed purist Villeneuve answered: "I'd get rid of the sole tire supplier, everything artificial like KERS and DRS and the restrictions on the number of engines.

"Less rules, more pure racing -- like Nascar," he added.

F1 film 'Rush' excited sport's experts - Lauda
(GMM)  Niki Lauda says the F1 fraternity this week gave a thumbs-up to a movie about the sport's legendary 1976 season.

During qualifying at the Nurburgring on Saturday, the triple world champion was spotted in the Mercedes garage with Ron Howard.

'Happy Days' actor and American Howard, director of Apollo 13, was behind 'Rush' -- a movie about Austrian legend Lauda, his fiery 1976 Nurburgring crash and his rivalry with James Hunt.

The film will not be released until September, but some of the sport's leading figures - including Bernie Ecclestone and Lewis Hamilton - were given a special screening at the Nurburgring, Lauda told Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"The pictures are really immense," said the 64-year-old Austrian, now co-owner and chairman of the Mercedes team.

"And the director Ron Howard was really happy because he could see how excited these formula one experts were about his film," added Lauda.

A British newspaper said Red Bull's Christian Horner and Adrian Newey also attended the screening.

De la Rosa would have replaced ill Bianchi - report
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa came tantalizingly close to returning to the F1 race grid this weekend at the Nurburgring.

As GPDA president, the veteran Spaniard has played a leading role in the tire chaos-induced threat of a driver boycott.

And according to Spanish correspondent Manuel Franco, Ferrari's reserve driver was also lined up as the likely German grand prix substitute for Marussia racer Jules Bianchi.

Bianchi had to pull out of Friday practice at the Nurburgring with a stomach upset, but the rookie Frenchman recovered sufficiently to duly qualify ahead of teammate Max Chilton on Saturday.

"I think another night's rest will help again," he said afterwards.

Writing in AS newspaper, correspondent Franco said 42-year-old de la Rosa had been lined up as Bianchi's successor, even to the point of having a seat prepared.

Franco said the fact Marussia turned to de la Rosa is due to the team's "good relations with the Scuderia", with Bianchi the leading name in Ferrari's driver development academy.

Marussia is expected to switch from Cosworth to Ferrari power for 2014.

Alonso says Ferrari back to 'normal
Fernando Alonso is confident Ferrari have made a step forward despite only qualifying eighth for Sunday's German GP.

With Ferrari the only front-running team to use the soft compound in Qualifying One, the Spaniard will start the race on the slower medium tire after accepting that his F138 didn't have the pace to match the speed of the Red Bulls, Lotuses and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes in the final top-ten shootout.

"We knew that with the soft we could only qualify fifth or sixth and with the medium maybe seventh or eighth. In terms of strategy, it's not clear which tire will be best, and tomorrow we will find out," said Alonso.

"But whatever tire you put on, if you are fast you will win the race or be on the podium, but if you are not fast with whatever tire you will not be on the podium.

"It's about the pace tomorrow not the tire or the strategy."

After struggling through the British GP weekend, Alonso is happy that Ferrari have closed the gap to the frontrunners this weekend after updating the F138.

"We have made a step forward and there is no doubt that we are now at a more normal level of competitiveness than we were at Silverstone. We were 1.5 seconds off the pace in practice and qualifying one and two at Silverstone and that was not the case today so the team has definitely made a step forward," he said.

"We still need to improve no question about that, but we are more optimistic and confident today because the car is behaving in a normal way."

The Spaniard has also voiced his relief that, after the tire failures of Silverstone, the Nurburgring weekend has so far passed off with alarm.

"Tomorrow, fingers crossed there will be no problem," he remarked. "That is the most important thing."

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