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DATE News (chronologically)
Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Still interest in Webber?
    F1 teams 'still sniffing around' - Webber
  • FIA jumps the gun on Hulkenberg's Lotus seat
  • Da Costa not counting on Toro Rosso seat
  • Ferrari 'insane' to sign Raikkonen - Villeneuve
  • Even McLaren falling into 'pay driver' trap - Villeneuve
  • Button confirms McLaren delay is over 2015
  • Why Singapore succeeds where Korea, India have struggled
  • Montezemolo laughs at Massa comment
  • Button says Raikkonen hiring a mistake

F1 teams 'still sniffing around' - Webber
(GMM)  Once strongly linked with a move to Ferrari, Mark Webber will enter F1 retirement having faced a parting shot from Luca di Montezemolo.

Referring to Ferrari's battle against Red Bull for 2013 honors, Montezemolo told La Gazzetta dello Sport this week: "We should bear in mind that there's only one Red Bull getting the results."

Indeed, while running teammate Sebastian Vettel close for the championship in 2010, and winning races in 2011 and 2012, this year Australian Webber has played a minor role alongside the triple world champion.

"In the last few years in F1 I knew the desire and passion was starting to wane a little bit and it's not a sport you should be competing in if you're not giving it 100 per cent," the 37-year-old told the Daily Mail.

Webber, now 37, started his grand prix career more than a decade ago at Minardi, working his way up to the top of the grid via Jaguar and Williams.

Along the way, he admits he made one crucial mistake -- choosing Williams in 2005 instead of becoming Fernando Alonso's teammate in what turned out to be the title-winning Renault.

"I turned it down unfortunately, that's the way it goes," said Webber.  "It wasn't the best decision in the end."

He insists he could have kept going in F1 in 2014 if he wanted to, but thinks moving to Le Mans with Porsche might be a better choice than staying for the radical turbo V6 rules in the new Pirelli-tired era.

"There were still F1 teams sniffing around – and there still are now - but my decision has already been made and I'm happy with it and I look forward to the future," said Webber.

"Endurance racing is easily as close to the cars in F1.  They are very, very quick if not on par with F1 in certain situations," he insisted.

Webber said F1 today doesn't compare to the era of V10 engines and the tire war between Bridgestone and Michelin.

"They're difficult to drive now – don't get me wrong – but there was a huge amount of power, a huge amount of grip and it was very difficult to handle and control," he said.

"Now it's very much more about controlling the pace during the race and making sure you get the cars and the tires more importantly to the end of the race."

Webber is passing on the torch to his younger countryman Daniel Ricciardo, who will now face the same challenge -- matching up to Vettel.

Webber and Vettel never got along, but after the recent Italian grand prix, the Australian admitted he was uncomfortable with the booing on the podium.

"It's the public's choice, it's up to them how they view what he (Vettel) is doing," said Webber.

"But Usain Bolt and Roger Federer aren't getting booed much," he added.

Some think Red Bull opted for Ricciardo for 2014 because his smiling nature will be easier for Vettel to handle.

"Ricciardo will be fine," Webber insists.  "He'll win races and he'll do very well but he needs to get under Seb's collar pretty early to make it a good battle."

FIA jumps the gun on Hulkenberg's Lotus seat
(GMM)  The FIA appears to have got ahead of itself whilst organizing the press conference schedule for this weekend's Singapore grand prix.

Nico Hulkenberg is hotly in the running to fill the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen's race seat for 2014, but the deal is far from done.

In its press release to inform journalists about the press conference lineup for Thursday in Singapore, however, F1's governing body listed German Hulkenberg as appearing for 'Lotus'.

The error was quickly recognized and fixed.

Also under consideration for the Lotus race seat next year is the Ferrari refugee Felipe Massa.

When asked specifically about his contention to replace Raikkonen at Lotus, Hulkenberg told the Munich newspaper Abendzeitung: "The decision is not in my hands, but I am hoping for a fast car (for 2014)."

The 26-year-old has not definitively ruled out staying at Sauber, but the Swiss team has been uncompetitive in 2013 and also struggling for survival.

Hulkenberg, however, said chasing down Toro Rosso for seventh in the lucrative constructors' championship could make a difference.

"We are closer to Toro Rosso and might even be able to pass them in the standings," he said.

"That would be good for the team, because it would mean a bonus -- and they need the cash!"

Until Kimi Raikkonen's signing, Hulkenberg was considered the hot favorite to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari.

Former Ferrari driver Rene Arnoux thinks Ferrari should have made a different choice.

"In the short term, the choice of Kimi was right," he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But looking further ahead, a young guy would have been better.  The problem is that F1 is always in a hurry, incapable of seeing things even in the medium term," added Arnoux.

Da Costa not counting on Toro Rosso seat
(GMM)  Antonio Felix da Costa seemed happier than a normal race winner when he won the Formula Renault 3.5 race in Hungary last weekend.

Considered the clear favorite to replace Red Bull-bound Daniel Ricciardo at Toro Rosso next year, the 22-year-old Portuguese had been suffering a slump in form in 2013, having not won since the Monza season opener in April.

Knowing Dr Helmut Marko, it would not be unimaginable that Red Bull's tough driver manager told da Costa that unless he returned to winning ways, another driver in the energy drink company's junior stable might be rushed into action instead.

Indeed, some think it was just that sort of pressure that was affecting da Costa's 2013 form.

"The pressure is a positive thing," he told the Italian magazine Italiaracing after his Hungary breakthrough.

"It is there because there is someone investing in me, who respects me and expects me to get results.  So not having it there would be much worse," da Costa insisted.

"If the thought of formula one had changed something in me, maybe it was in my way of racing in certain extreme situations.  Think of Alonso and the praise he gets for his consistency," he explained.

Returning to the top of the podium in Hungary, then, and back within sight of McLaren's standout juniors Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, da Costa might now feel much closer to the Toro Rosso seat of 2014.

"Actually I don't feel sure of anything," da Costa insists.

"I know that Marko and (Toro Rosso boss Franz) Tost really would like to put me in that car, but I also know that I have to deserve it and that this year I have not done enough.

"Until now I had only won one race, and that wouldn't be much in a championship with 19 races.

"What I did in Budapest was a step in the right direction, but it still might not be enough.

"I am conscious of being lucky because I am a step ahead of (Carlos) Sainz and (Daniil) Kvyat, and if we were equal then probably the choice would between all of us.

"So not losing this opportunity is only up to me, and I will do everything I can for it," da Costa said.

Ferrari 'insane' to sign Raikkonen - Villeneuve
(GMM)  Jacques Villeneuve has blasted Ferrari's decision to sign Kimi Raikkonen for 2014.

Prior to his slump in form and Ferrari's decision to push him into sabbatical at the end of 2009, the Finn won the Italian team's last world title in 2007.

But 1997 world champion Villeneuve thinks bringing the now 33-year-old Raikkonen back to Ferrari in Felipe Massa's wake is not smart.

"Ferrari are completely insane," the always outspoken French Canadian told the German newspaper Bild.

"He can drive a car fast, but he can't work with the engineers, he can't develop the car, he won't go to sponsor appointments," Villeneuve said.

Villeneuve is not the only one questioning Ferrari's choice, particularly with the fiery Latin temperament of the current 'number 1' Fernando Alonso on the other side of the garage.

"If Kimi starts outqualifying Fernando that would be a big one," McLaren's Jenson Button said this week, "because Fernando is not the quickest guy but as a package he's exceptional.

"It's fun for us watching from the outside, but does it make the team stronger?  I personally don't think it does," the 2009 world champion added.

Former Ferrari driver Rene Arnoux agrees with those who think Alonso plus Raikkonen equals trouble.

"It will last 3 or 4 races," said the Frenchman, when pondering the 'peace' at Maranello at the very beginning of 2014.

"As far as character, I see Alonso's as the weaker," he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Remember him with Hamilton at McLaren?  The peace was short lived, and while I am the first to hope I am wrong, for winning the constructors' title you need two very strong drivers and characters.

"But, of these two, one is angry and one doesn't care.  Every Sunday there is the possibility that it explodes.

"Yes, as a neutral spectator, I like Ferrari's choice," he smiled.

Arnoux, now 65, thinks it is possible Raikkonen will get the upper hand.

"He seems to be more mature these days.  Sure, his character is still the same, but since he was at Lotus he seems more consistent.

"(Romain) Grosjean is still a mid-level driver and so it seems that Lotus has relied almost exclusively on Kimi," he added.

On the other hand, Arnoux questions whether Alonso can cope with being paired with a driver of Raikkonen's caliber.

"Definitely he has a bad temper, but this can also be a quality when it is used in battle," he said.

"But not when it is used within the team, creating difficulties and divisions.

"Frankly, I want to see if Alonso is really up to what people say about him.  In Barcelona he did an amazing race, a masterpiece, but then for a few races he did nothing," added Arnoux.

Something else that might spark Alonso's fire is the extra workload that having Raikkonen alongside him might create.

The Finn is notorious for hating PR, media and sponsor work, and negotiating contracts that minimize his off-track commitments.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said this week: "I hope his (Raikkonen's) public relations will consist of wins, as well as a contribution to the team and a diligent presence in Maranello.

"Alonso cannot take all the work on his shoulders alone," he insisted.

Even McLaren falling into 'pay driver' trap - Villeneuve
(GMM)  Jacques Villeneuve has joined those who rail against the increasing power wielded by so-called 'pay drivers' in formula one.

Drivers with sponsorship and lucrative connections have always been a part of the sport, but with F1's rising costs and the struggling economy, only in the past few years has it begun to truly lock out promising talent.

"If even McLaren is going down this path, it's bad," 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, obviously referring to the billionaire Carlos Slim-backed Sergio Perez, told the German newspaper Bild.

This week, Mark Webber - also a 'purist' like Villeneuve - hailed those new talents who are managing to shine in F1 despite the new 'pay driver' era.

Webber mentioned Williams' Valtteri Bottas, but Villeneuve has a different view of the Finn.

"It's terrible when I hear how happy they are with their driver Bottas," he said.

"Sorry, but finishing between 11th and 16th places is not doing a great job.  They're saying it only not to upset the sponsor that he's bringing.

"The teams are killing, more and more, the image of formula one that it once had," Villeneuve insisted.

In fact, the former Williams and BAR driver thinks the sport has already lost its way.

"It was once full of heroes, on the border of the possible, always extreme, technology and engineering on the limit, but always a logic to it.

"Formula one has gone the other way -- a fortune is still spent, but without logic," he said.

"Five engines per season, only one tire maker, all the restrictions and the driver devices, the 'green' direction -- maybe this is Le Mans, but it's not formula one," Villeneuve said.

He said he would prefer if those who cannot really afford F1 simply disappear, leaving five or six healthy top teams, each fielding three or four cars.

"Yes, absolutely, great," said the 42-year-old.

"Why not three Force India cars and on each car a different sponsor?"

Told that F1 would then be going down the IndyCar or Nascar route, Villeneuve answered: "Everything that comes from America doesn't have to be bad.

"It would be easier to find sponsors because it would be less expensive for them.  And there would be no more team orders, because every sponsor would want their car to win.

"The cars would also be closer together, the gap between the front and the gap not so big, so the racing for the fans would be great," he added.

Button confirms McLaren delay is over 2015
(GMM)  Jenson Button has confirmed that the sticking point in his talks with McLaren is over 2015.

It has been reported the 2009 world champion is happy to commit to the British team for next year, but wants to leave the door open for 2015.

"For next year it's all good, it's a formality," Button is quoted by the news agency AFP.

McLaren, however, would prefer driver certainty for the start of the Honda era, even though managing director Jonathan Neale played that down when talking to reporters this week.

"We've shown in the past that we weren't afraid to make the changes that we felt that we needed to in the team, whether it was inside the organization or in the driver lineup, in order to get the job done," he told a Vodafone teleconference.

Button hinted at an ExxonMobil promotional event ahead of the Singapore grand prix that 2015 is the sticking point.

"Nothing's sorted yet for the year after," he said, referring to 2015.

"2014 is an option year on the previous contract and then we see."

Why Singapore succeeds where Korea, India have struggled
Why has Singapore quickly become one of F1′s most important and successful races, where events in places like Korea and India have floundered?

Of course the charisma of the night race and the economic location of the event, in the business gateway to Asia are significant factors. But the reason why it works so well is the business model for organizing the event. And it’s one other F1 races and aspiring hosts would do well to emulate.

The key to it is a public/private model; a 60-40 split between the Singapore government and a private company owned by entrepreneur Ong Beng Seng, whose property, hotels and lifestyle business also extends to operating Ferrari dealerships in Singapore and Shanghai. Ong was the first to bring Haagen Dazs ice cream to Asia and is one of Singapore’s main concert promoters via his Lushington Entertainments company.

The government takes 60% of the financial risk in return for 60% of the returns, Ong’s company fronts 40% of the costs and gets 40% of the revenues. By doing it this way, the government doesn’t get accused by critics of wasting public money on an F1 race (like Melbourne for example), it can point to a healthy profit. But crucially it makes it worth it for the entrepreneurial promoter.

“It’s a 60-40 split, although a lot of the infrastructure was paid by the government at the outset,” says Syn. “The government takes risk but gets upside. We share the risks. The new Grand Prix venues are looking at it, the Thais (the aspiring Thailand Grand Prix organizers), for example. It’s the best way.

“If you don’t get the government behind you it doesn’t work. The first year we had to submit plans and road closures. The government had given the green light so all our plans were fast tracked.”

Too many promoters are exposed to risk and when they fail to meet financial deadlines, the event collapses. Singapore in contrast is in the first year of a new five year contract with F1 and is almost sold out for spectators and corporate guests. Data issued by the Singapore Tourist Office shows that there is a 12% increase in inbound air traffic this weekend due to the Grand Prix. One of the targets Singapore GP Ltd has to hit is 40% of the spectators coming from outside Singapore, a target they have hit – just – in each of the first five years.

Overall attendance for the Singapore GP last year was around 260,000, an average of just over 80,000 people each day. This year looks set to be an increase on that. Figures from the Singapore Tourist Office claim that the event brings in 150 million Singapore dollars. 17% of the fans come from Australia, with 8% from the UK and 6% from Indonesia.

According to an Insight articleon the website of JA on F1 partner UBS, the idea for a night race was Bernie Ecclestone’s; when the Singapore GP team were waiting for him in his office in London,

“All of a sudden he stretched his hand in and switched off the lights,” says Colin Syn, the event organizer. “Then he opened the door, switched on the lights and said, ‘I want a night race!’ “

It took just 18 months from that point to the F1 cars running on the streets around the Marina Bay circuit for the first race and since then the event has become a blueprint for how a Grand Prix should be run. James Allen on F1

Montezemolo laughs at Massa comment
Luca di Montezemolo has laughed off suggestions that Felipe Massa's attitude to supporting Fernando Alonso's title bid will change now the Brazilian has lost his seat for 2014.

This weekend's Singapore GP represents what Massa now knows is the first of the final seven races of his eight-year Ferrari career after the Maranello outfit ended months of speculation last week by confirming that they had re-hired Kimi Raikkonen in place of the Brazilian for next season.

Despite an apparent lack of realistic options for 2014, Massa has made clear his desire to continue his F1 career beyond the end of the current campaign and, having already targeted Raikkonen's soon-to-be-vacant seat at Lotus, likely needs a run of strong results over the final seven rounds to boost his case.

Indeed, Massa's determination to secure a drive elsewhere appears to have been underlined by quotes attributed to him in the Brazilian media in which the 32-year-old reportedly said: "I will not race for Alonso from now on."

Montezemolo, however, is not expecting a change in attitude from Ferrari's long-serving driver.

"The team will support Alonso until the very last meter and on top of that, I am also expecting Massa to have a great end to the season," the Ferrari President said in his wide-interview interview with Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Felipe is an exceptional guy and a wonderful person. They say he won't help Fernando? Please! He will definitely do so, giving us a hand for the Constructors' and Alonso for the Drivers'."

Ferrari and Alonso have arrived in Singapore knowing they need to secure a big result on Sunday to check Red Bull's momentum which has seen Sebastian Vettel open up a 53-point lead at the top of the Drivers' Championship.

But after two successive second-place finishes, Montezemolo is expecting a further step forward with the F138.

"I am expecting updates that will bring improvements. We should bear in mind that there's only one Red Bull getting the results..." the Italian added.

Button says Raikkonen hiring a mistake
McLaren's Jenson Button said Ferrari may have inadvertently given a boost to their rivals by re-hiring former world champion Kimi Raikkonen to join current lead driver Fernando Alonso.

Button, speaking ahead of Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, said the decision was "great for us" and predicted difficulties at Ferrari as next season progresses.

The 33-year-old Briton said rather than being a dream pairing, two-time world champion Alonso and "Iceman" Raikkonen, who won the 2007 title with Ferrari, may find it difficult to cooperate.

"We'll definitely be watching their situation," Button told AFP.

"Ferrari for many years has had two drivers in the team that have been very quick but when it gets to a point in the season, it seems one driver helps the other driver.

"I don't think that will be the case with Kimi and Fernando -- I don't think they'll be trying to help the other driver. A guy that's achieved what they've achieved will not want to be helping out his team-mate."

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has warned that the partnership could be "explosive", while Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko reportedly said the strong-willed duo could tear the team apart.

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