Latest F1 news in brief - Saturday (Update) UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
Brawn exit won't 'derail' Mercedes - Hamilton
|Hamilton says he is not worried if Brawn leaves for McLaren|
- Autopsy shows 'natural' death for de Villota
- Raikkonen perhaps highest paid driver in 2013 - Boullier
- Sirotkin 'happy' after first test at Fiorano
- Fan apologized for Vettel booing - Horner
- Kovalainen admits Caterham talks 'serious'
- No penalty as Valencia breaks F1 contract
- Ferrari boss compares Vettel to Schumacher
- Prost denies Lotus to be Renault works team
- Unburnt fuel causes Sauber fire New
- Alonso unhappy with performance New
- Pic ordered to take drive-through New
Brawn exit won't 'derail' Mercedes - Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has tempered his comments, having earlier urged Ross Brawn to stay at Mercedes.
Earlier at Suzuka, amid rumors Brawn could step away from the Brackley based team, the 2008 world champion said he would "like him to stay", as Brawn was "very influential in bringing me to the team".
But Brawn, currently team boss, said he only wants to stay in "a role I'm motivated by and want to do".
"We all want to get the situation clear as to how we are going to go into next year," he told the BBC.
Hamilton, whose next boss is likely to be Paddy Lowe, has now said he supports Brawn's decision and would also be happy under a new regime.
"He knows I'm a big supporter of his," he is quoted by the Mirror, "but at the end of the day he has to do what it right for him.
"I don't think it (Brawn's departure) would derail my season next year," Hamilton added.
Autopsy shows 'natural' death for de Villota
(GMM) Maria de Villota's post-mortem has confirmed reports the former Marussia tester died of natural causes.
International publications say the 33-year-old died of a heart attack after a suspected brain hemorrhage in a Seville hotel early on Friday.
Germany's Welt newspaper said Spanish authorities are investigating, but rumors de Villota could have committed suicide are wide of the mark.
The report also said no medications or drugs were found in the hotel room or de Villota's body.
"It was absolutely natural causes," a forensic medicine spokesman said in Seville after the autopsy.
Spain's EFE news agency said Isabel de Villota suggested her sister's death was related to her serious head injuries sustained in the Marussia test crash last July.
Raikkonen perhaps highest paid driver in 2013 - Boullier
(GMM) Team boss Eric Boullier says it is "likely" Kimi Raikkonen is departing Lotus as the highest paid driver in formula one.
When the Finn returned to the sport last year after a rally and Nascar sabbatical, his contract included a base retainer and big bonuses for points.
The deal caught Lotus by surprise.
"We knew he would be good, and we knew we would be good, but we didn't know it would be that good!" team owner Gerard Lopez smiled recently.
Now, after Raikkonen said he is leaving for Ferrari next year only because his pay is late, the 33-year-old's dream pairing with Lotus is ending somewhat sourly.
Asked by Speed Week to say what the 2007 world champion brought to the team, boss Boullier answered: "That is difficult to define.
"Without us, Kimi's return to F1 would have been a different picture," he said.
"Can you imagine how it would have been if he had signed for Williams and not us? We built everything around Kimi.
"I think as a Lotus driver he became even more interesting to the fans. He gained in popularity," said the Frenchman.
"If he had retired after his rally phase, I think Kimi Raikkonen would be forgotten today," added Boullier.
"We gave him the right tools to get his self-confidence back."
Told of the rumor that Raikkonen is the highest paid driver in 2013, Boullier smiled before answering: "That is quite likely."
So now, with Raikkonen departing, Boullier confirmed that Romain Grosjean is staying at Lotus in 2014.
And with Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa the front-runners to replace Raikkonen, Boullier said he is looking for "Someone who is uncomfortable for Romain".
"I don't want him to be in a cocoon of well-being."
Sirotkin 'happy' after first test at Fiorano
(GMM) Sergey Sirotkin "can be happy" after kicking off his quest for a F1 super license on Friday.
The Russian teen, who will line up as Sauber's 2014 race driver if he qualifies for the mandatory credential, was circulating at Fiorano.
Making use of Sauber's relationship with its engine supplier, Sirotkin was at the wheel of a 2009 Ferrari at the fabled Italian team's own test track.
"Sergey has done quite well, as it was his first time in a formula one car," said Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn, not referring to Sirotkin's recent running in a straight line and for a demonstration at Sochi.
"He drove 180 kilometers (at Fiorano)," Kaltenborn is quoted by Speed Week, "and even if we don't want to talk about lap times, I can summarize by saying that he can be happy."
Fan apologized for Vettel booing - Horner
(GMM) A spectator who booed Sebastian Vettel under the podium in Singapore subsequently wrote to apologize, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has revealed.
"He had done it (booed) because the chap next to him did," Horner is quoted by the Guardian newspaper.
"He felt dreadfully sorry about it and (asked) please could I pass on his apologies to Sebastian because he realized it was particularly unsporting."
Horner blamed the "pantomime"-effect and "the X-Factor world that we live in now" for the spate of recent booing, and revealed that world champion Vettel has been affected by the negativity.
"When you get a negative reaction when you have driven your heart out, no matter what he says, of course you feel it," he said.
Horner, however, whilst highly critical of the booing, did acknowledge that he can at least "understand" the fans' frustration, as Vettel cruises to a fourth-consecutive world title.
"Yes, of course," he said.
"But we enter a sporting championship at the beginning of the year and there is nothing in the regulations that says there's got to be a show and it has to go to the last race.
"We all sign up to those rules and do the best job that we can," added Horner.
Kovalainen admits Caterham talks 'serious'
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has revealed he is in "serious" talks with Caterham about returning to the F1 grid in 2014.
Having been dropped from the race lineup this year, Finn Kovalainen was given a handful of Friday morning appearances by the team in 2013, including at Suzuka.
The 31-year-old said his future is now in Caterham's hands.
"The only serious discussions have taken place with Caterham, so I'm looking forward to their decision," Kovalainen told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.
"It's hard to say what the chance is, but the relationship is good," he added.
Kovalainen was the fastest of the Caterham and Marussia drivers on Friday.
He insisted: "I don't feel that I need to prove anything in these practices, because the teams knows exactly what they get with me."
No penalty as Valencia breaks F1 contract
(GMM) Valencia will not be penalized after dropping out of formula one.
We reported a week ago that race official Gonzalo Gobert confirmed the Spanish city, already absent from the 2013 and 2014 calendars, will definitively stop hosting grands prix.
He added that negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone were taking place so that Valencia is not penalized for breaking its contract.
Valencia government vice-president Jose Ciscar said on Friday: "It appears there will be no formula one in Valencia next year, and no penalty.
"If there is no race, there is no penalty," Europa Press quotes Ciscar as saying, adding that a written document for the termination is now being prepared.
"The contract termination letter will not change what I am announcing right now," he insisted.
Ferrari boss compares Vettel to Schumacher
(GMM) Stefano Domenicali says the door to Ferrari is open to Sebastian Vettel in the future.
German Vettel has won the past three world champions for Red Bull, is cruising to a fourth in 2013 and is all signed up for 2014 and beyond.
But the 26-year-old has always admitted an affection for the other 'red' team.
So amid rumors Fernando Alonso is unhappy at Ferrari and looking for a way out of his contract, team boss Domenicali had some words of affection for Vettel at Suzuka.
"Maybe he is looking for a new challenge," the Italian told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
"He has a contract with Red Bull, we have contracts with our drivers. I would not rule anything out, but this is nothing we will deal with in the near future," Domenicali insisted.
Undoubtedly, though, there was substance to the rumors this year that Alonso is looking to move. As recently as this week, Spanish reports said he will be Honda-powered by 2015, and possibly at McLaren even next year.
At the same time, Domenicali's praise of Vettel is equally conspicuous.
"Sebastian often reminds me of the good old times with Michael (Schumacher) here with us," he said in Japan.
He said there is truth to the claims Vettel - like Schumacher before him - is utterly dominating F1 at present because of his superior car.
"That's absolutely right," said Domenicali, "but it's not everything.
"Michael was always able to deliver the results, which is crucial," he added.
"Deserve or not, he definitely did it, so congratulations Sebastian!" said Domenicali.
Prost denies Lotus to be Renault works team
(GMM) Renault ambassador Alain Prost has dismissed rumors Lotus could become the French carmaker's works team.
Lotus boss Eric Boullier revealed at Suzuka he is discussing "a branding opportunity" with the team's engine supplier for 2014, "and maybe something even closer".
It sparked rumors Renault, falling into the background at Red Bull due to the Infiniti deal, could be looking to make Enstone its works team yet again.
But quadruple world champion Prost told Germany's Auto Bild: "I can say that Renault will keep its strategy of being only an engine supplier.
"A works team in the distant future is not impossible, but not at the moment," he added.
Unburnt fuel causes Sauber fire
Sauber has confirmed that unburnt fuel was the cause of a brief fire on Esteban Gutierrez’s car during the opening phase of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Mexican was forced to jump out of his C32 when the fire erupted, with mechanics working quickly to put out the flames. Although it made for a dramatic scene, no lasting damage was suffered, and he progressed to secure 14th on the grid.
"We had a fire during Q1 from some unburnt fuel, but there was no damage to the car," said Tom McCullough, Sauber's Head of Track Engineering, after qualifying.
Sauber has also been handed a fine of 20,000 euros (16,971 pounds) after the stewards adjudged the team to have supplied Nico Hülkenberg with incorrect information prior to him impeding Marussia's Max Chilton during final practice.
Alonso unhappy with performance
Fernando Alonso has vowed to improve after qualifying eighth for the Japanese Grand Prix, the Spaniard admitting he has not been driving well enough so far this weekend.
Alonso, whose title challenge has already been dented thwarted by Sebastian Vettel's recent quartet of race victories, was outqualified by Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa for the third time in four events on Saturday, with 0.287 seconds separating the pair.
"Nothing," was Alonso's plain response when asked what had gone wrong for him. "I haven't had a good weekend so far. I've been eighth and ninth all weekend and didn't find the pace. In qualifying I'm eighth again, so I'm not doing good enough so far."
When asked what can be achieved in the race, Alonso said: "The top five is maybe something realistic for us. We need to overtake a few cars. But we also need to race thinking a little bit about the Constructors' Championship. We have Mercedes only one point behind, they are both in front of me so I need to finish in front of at least one."
Massa was understandably buoyed by his qualifying performance, the Brazilian heading up the third row of the grid alongside Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg.
"I managed to put together a great lap, almost a perfect lap," said Massa, whose Formula 1 future is not yet secured. "We have some cars in front that are quicker than us but we are not far for the qualifying at least. We will see tomorrow. The race pace is very important but I'm very happy for the qualifying. Let's try to do even better tomorrow."
Pic ordered to take drive-through
The Caterham driver, who already has a 10-place grid penalty for picking up three reprimands this season, must serve his drive-through penalty during the first five laps of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
He was hit with the punishment for leaving the pitlane five seconds after the pit exit light had turned red, in contravention of article 31.3 of the sporting regulations.
The incident happened during Q1 when the session was red-flagged because of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso-Ferrari catching fire.
The four-person stewarding panel, which includes former Scuderia Italia and Benetton F1 driver Emanuele Pirro, stated that the fact this was Pic's second such offence in succession led to the harsh punishment.
The stewards' report read: "Car #20 crossed the pit exit line at 14:17:10. The red light was at 14:17:05.
"It is noted this is the second consecutive event in which the driver has driven through a red light."