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Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday
  • Webber gets a taxi-ride
    Furious Webber slams 'comical' taxi-ride penalty
  • Vettel boos linked to lack of 'charisma' - Stuck
  • No more 'passive DRS' for Lotus in 2013
  • Lotus not ruling out name change to Renault - Lopez
  • Mercedes lineup strongest due to 'harmony' - Wolff
  • Globo to stay in F1 even without Massa
  • Domenicali vows to fight on
  • Grosjean to lead Lotus in 2014?
  • Boullier: Lotus debt is not major issue 

Furious Webber slams 'comical' taxi-ride penalty
(GMM)  Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso have slammed and ridiculed the ten-place grid penalty the Australian will have to serve next weekend in Korea.

Webber was penalized for hitching a ride on the sidepod of Alonso's Ferrari after breaking down at the end of the Singapore grand prix.

He is furious.

"For Alonso and me to receive reprimands for our actions after the race is comical to say the least.

"Great moment, and fans loved it," Webber wrote on Twitter.

He posted a montage of 12 similar 'taxi rides' throughout F1 history, including when Singapore steward Derek Warwick rode on the engine cover of Gerhard Berger's Ferrari.

"Yes, I thought it had been done before," added Webber.

The 37-year-old, who is leaving F1 at the end of the season, also denied marshals told him not to cross the track in order to climb aboard Alonso's stationary car.

Friend Alonso also joined the Twitter condemnation, posting a photoshopped image of himself and Webber in a taxi, with the caption addressed to the Red Bull driver: "Ready for Hollywood?"

FIA steward Warwick had defended the penalty on the basis that drivers on the slowing-down lap had to swerve past Alonso and Webber, because the Spaniard had parked on the racing line after a blind corner.

But Webber's former Red Bull teammate David Coulthard insisted: "Who were Webber and Alonso putting in danger?

"In reality, only themselves.  And that's what they do every time they strap themselves into their racing cars," he wrote in a column for the BBC.

McLaren's Jenson Button agreed: "(I'm) disappointed to see the penalties for Webber and Alonso; (an) act of sportsmanship should not really be punished," he said on Twitter.

Sections of the press are also highly critical of the penalty.

"It is petty and hypocritical to accuse drivers who have risked their lives for two hours at an average of 200kph between concrete walls to have acted dangerously.

"It is treating them as though they are children who don't know what they're doing," Autosprint's Alberto Sabbatini said.

"Actually, as we could see from the cameras, (Lewis) Hamilton was doing only 60kph (when he passed Alonso-Webber) -- ridiculous(ly slow) speeds for the brakes and reaction times of professional drivers," he insisted.

Vettel boos linked to lack of 'charisma' - Stuck
(GMM)  Hans-Joachim Stuck, a German motor racing legend, has backed Sebastian Vettel after the reigning world champion was booed on recent F1 podiums.

He told Munich's Abendzeitung newspaper that the dominant Red Bull driver doesn't deserve the scorn simply for winning, or that he's not "cool" or "cute" like Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg respectively.

"All I can say is, dear Sebastian, don't worry about," said Stuck.

Stuck said he was sometimes booed as a driver, although the situation is not comparable to Vettel's because the 26-year-old "doesn't really know what he did wrong".

Stuck, 62, said Vettel "does not have the charisma of an Alonso or a Raikkonen".

"Either you have it or you don't," he insisted.  "He's still a great guy."

Stuck said Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton fit much more with the "typical racing driver cliche".

"One has women, the other is often drunk under the table.  And drivers with corners and edges are more loved by the fans at certain times than a slick one who only wins," he added.

Asked what Vettel can do to stop the booing, Stuck joked that the championship leader could stop winning.

But F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone thinks Red Bull might finally be beaten involuntarily in 2014.

"We're going to have completely new cars, new engines, new rules," he told Bild newspaper.

"That will be the chance for Ferrari and Mercedes to catch up with Vettel."

Ecclestone compared Vettel's dominance to the Schumacher and Senna eras.  But while Ayrton Senna was Hamilton's hero, the 2008 world champion insists he is not sure he would like to enjoy Vettel-like dominance.

"Me, I don't want to be able to be that far ahead, I want to be able to fight with him or whoever," Hamilton told the Independent.

Hamilton's Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, told France's L'Equipe that "What Red Bull are doing is the goal we have set for the forthcoming years".

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo wouldn't word it quite like that, but he would undoubtedly enjoy a Vettel-like era of dominance.

Indeed, when asked about the booing, the Italian told Tuttosport that the German is a "great driver".

"In Singapore I saw a nice Ferrari test, we were the best of the ordinary, but I want to go back to being extraordinary," Montezemolo added.

No more 'passive DRS' for Lotus in 2013
(GMM)  Lotus will no longer use the 'passive DRS' system that has often appeared on the black and gold E21 in 2013.

"No, it probably won't be seen again this season," said the team's trackside boss Alan Permane.

"We have not given up on it, but it still doesn't work perfectly," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"And we simply don't want to spend any more time on it.

"Our technical department is now working more or less exclusively on the car for next season," Permane revealed.

Meanwhile, the Spanish sports newspaper El Mundo Deportivo reports that, after an 18 month shutdown, Ferrari will finally reopen its own wind tunnel in late October.

The great Italian team has been using Toyota's Cologne facility since identifying correlation faults with the Maranello tunnel, which has also been upgraded.

"Not having your own wind tunnel is like playing basketball with one hand, while your opponents use two," team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted as saying.

Lotus not ruling out name change to Renault - Lopez
(GMM)  Team owner Gerard Lopez has confirmed Lotus is hoping Renault offers 'works'-style support to the Enstone based outfit.

In an interview with F1's official website, team boss Eric Boullier this week also alluded to a tie-up with the French engine supplier.

"I do believe in the concept of Renault having two teams they count on -- Red Bull and us," he said.

Lopez said taking the next step is in fact crucial for Lotus.

"Ideally, we need to get the support of an automaker," he told France's Auto Hebdo.

"It gives significant weight in the political arena of F1, and in the relations with investors and shareholders," said Lopez.

"I would not mind if the team has to change its name," he revealed.

"It doesn't matter whether it's called Genii, Lotus, Renault or something else."

Undoubtedly, amid reports of high debt and financial strife, Lotus could also do with the money.

Indeed, Kimi Raikkonen revealed in Singapore that he is only leaving the team because he has not yet been paid.

"He had it all," said Lopez.  "A competitive car, the support of the team, unparalleled comfort.

"Like last year, not everything was paid on time, but he did receive all of his money in the end (in 2012).  We do not have a budget like some of the other teams, so we have to have priorities.

"I thought Kimi did not return to formula one for the money, but it is clear that the opposite is actually true," added Lopez.

"From now on, it's no longer our problem.  In the end, we are not able to compete with teams that are willing to do anything to get a contract with a driver."

Mercedes lineup strongest due to 'harmony' - Wolff
(GMM)  Ferrari's 2014 pairing is not quite a match for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

That is the claim of Mercedes' Toto Wolff, who told Sport Bild that he is hopeful the Brackley based team will be charging for the title very soon.

Asked what he hopes for within the next three-year period, he told the German magazine: "That we would have justified the advanced praise and are a serious candidate for the world championship.

"No, actually in three years I want to already have the title in the bag," added Wolff.

It has been said that the task for F1's top outfits, including the dominant Red Bull, has been made more difficult by the new 'dream team' driver lineup fielded by Ferrari in 2014.

"I still think we have the strongest driver pairing," said Wolff, when asked to compare Hamilton-Rosberg with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen for 2014.

"It's because our drivers have known each other for so long that they are able to compete fairly despite their many differences," he added.

"I do not see that Ferrari's (lineup) could be as harmonious as ours," said Wolff.

Former two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen, who spent most of his McLaren career alongside David Coulthard, agrees with those who think Alonso-Raikkonen could spell trouble.

"The presence of two champions could create a strange pressure in a team of 1000 people," the Finn told Speed Week.

"There are a lot of positives, but it's also unpredictable," Hakkinen added.

Globo to stay in F1 even without Massa
(GMM)  Brazilian broadcaster Globo has announced it will continue to televise formula one, even if Felipe Massa is not on the grid.

Earlier, there were fears Massa's potential exit from the sport, after losing his Ferrari seat, could spell the end of Globo's interest.

But the company has now announced that it has sold the available advertising space for its coverage in 2014, with the existing sponsors staying put.

Revealing he is trying to help Massa stay in F1 beyond 2013, chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper last weekend: "The (Brazilian) media has an important role in trying to keep having a (Brazilian) driver in F1."

Brazil, a hugely important market for the sport, has had a driver on every F1 grid since Emerson Fittipaldi in 1970.

But Lotus' Eric Boullier said Massa's hunt for Brazilian sponsors will have no impact on the team's choice of successor for the departing Kimi Raikkonen.

"It would have zero effect on our decision," he told F1's official website.

"I want to choose the driver on merit and not on money."

Boullier admitted German Nico Hulkenberg is also in the running.

"The question is do we want to be conservative and work with an experienced driver, especially with the new engine and powertrain next year, or do we gamble on a youngster?" he said.

Domenicali vows to fight on
Stefano Domenicali concedes the "wrong" Red Bull retired in Singapore as it is Sebastian Vettel who Ferrari need to falter.

However, rather than doing that, the German put in a sublime performance, dominating the grand prix from start to finish to win by 33 seconds over Fernando Alonso.

As a result the Spaniard now trails Vettel by 60 points with Domenicali admitting Ferrari need the German and not his team-mate to run in a bit of bad luck.

"Unfortunately the Red Bull that finished the race was, if I may say, the wrong one," he said.

"But of course in the sporting way, congratulations to him [Vettel] because he did a fantastic race, very easy, very clean.

"The only thing we have to do is try to stay there and being second, if there is an opportunity, as we always said, we will have it.

"Normally speaking without a problem to Vettel it's very difficult that we can fight for the Championship, but you never know.

"What has happened to Mark Webber at the last lap can happen to Sebastian and if it happens one or two times we are there. Never say never.

"It's very difficult but we will try."

The team boss added that Ferrari's attempts to close up on Red Bull are being hindered by their need to throw the majority of their resources into next year's car.

He added: "For sure at this stage it is clear that Vettel with Red Bull has a better package but what I will say from our side is that we will try to deliver on the track what is still on the pipeline.

Grosjean to lead Lotus in 2014?
Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane feels Romain Grosjean is making a strong case to be the team leader next year.

Grosjean has played second fiddle to Kimi Raikkonen over the past two seasons, but the team will need to come up with a new strategy next year as the Finn is heading to Ferrari.

The Enstone squad are yet to name their drivers for next season and the likes of Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg have been mentioned as possible team-mates for the Frenchman.

Asked if Grosjean could lead the team in 2014, Permane told ESPNF1: "I don't see why not, honestly. It obviously depends who we get as his team-mate; if it's a strong character or who it is, but I don't see why not.

"Now is his chance and he looks to be taking it, which is really good to see."

Grosjean had a frustrating race day in Singapore over the weekend as he started P3 on the grid, but was forced to retire due to a problem with the E21.

However, the 27-year-old has done well in recent races and Permane says he has proved that he has the potential to deliver.

"I think Romain himself has made - I wouldn't call it a breakthrough - but since the Nurburgring, Hungary, he's just been getting better and better and better," he said.

"When it counted [in Singapore] he had a difficult Friday, he had a few car problems and didn't run a great deal, but he had an excellent Saturday. We knew we had the potential to do well and he delivered, and I think for his head that will be very, very important. He'll know that he can do it." PlanetF1

Boullier: Lotus debt is not major issue
Eric Boullier has insisted that the reported debt problems experienced by his Lotus squad have been exaggerated, and that the team’s current situation still fits within the management strategy of majority shareholders Genii Capital.

There have been almost constant rumors throughout the course of the 2013 season about the state of the Enstone-based outfit’s finances, with Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen claiming that his exit was down to the team’s inability to provide assurances over money, as opposed to potential performance discrepancies.

Nevertheless, Team Principal Boullier stated that the unique approach adopted by Genii means that the level of Lotus’ actual debt may be less than some of its rival teams.

"Look at some of the other teams: at Red Bull or Mercedes, those companies are sponsoring the teams. Genii has a different strategy: they loan the money," he explained. "It is part of the strategy that partners join the team and Genii will get back their investment. Seventy-five percent of the debt Lotus has comes from Genii. They could write it off tomorrow by saying this money is a sponsorship - and then our debt would be drastically reduced.

"Our normal debt is similar to most of the other teams," he continued. "Take Mercedes for example: they could say that the money they invest in Brackley is only a loan - then the debt of the team would be seriously higher than ours."

Despite his defiance, the 39 year-old still expressed concerns over the costs of the planned regulation changes in 2014, admitting that the squad needs to secure a title sponsor to stay within planned monetary targets for the future.

"It will cost more than our revenue stream, so we increase the imbalance," he said. "But if you have the proper support - and Genii has the means to cover this - then you can look ahead. Of course the plan is to bring somebody in to make us move to the next step and to increase our revenue stream."

When asked whether the outfit was in negotiations with sponsors, the Frenchman confirmed: "Yes, we are. That’s all I can say at the moment."

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