Latest F1 news in brief - Friday
FIA gives Alonso green light to race in Austin
|2012 Start of COTA race|
- Struggling Hamilton to race new chassis
- Sauber has paid electricity bill - Kaltenborn
- Raikkonen surgery 'went well' - report
- Magnussen risks ending career 'very early' - Button
- COTA President Says Race Taking Proactive Steps To Stay Lively In Second Year
- Two F1 figures say Perez too 'arrogant' New
FIA gives Alonso green light to race in Austin
(GMM) Fernando Alonso on Thursday got the all-clear to race in Austin.
The Spaniard has had several medical checks since the Abu Dhabi grand prix, where a violent ride over the curbs left him with back pain.
He got the all-clear from his own doctors in Spain earlier this week, but also needed the official green light from the FIA ahead of the US grand prix.
So on Thursday, whilst skipping his media duties at the Austin circuit, he stopped in at the medical centre for tests.
The Ferrari driver gave the waiting reporters a 'thumbs-up' when he walked out of the doors and back into his car for the ride back to the hotel.
"Happy to have the 'ok' from doctors and race this weekend," he told his Twitter followers. "Last day to recover and do my best to help the team!"
Ferrari confirmed that Alonso's FIA tests on Thursday "all proved positive".
"However, as he is not yet in perfect shape, the team decided he should have a further day's rest today (Thursday) so as to help his recovery as much as possible," the Italian team added.
The correspondent for the Spanish sports newspaper AS, Manuel Franco, said Alonso is still coping with pain and dizziness, but is "improving day by day".
Had Alonso needed to sit out Austin, the most likely candidate to replace him would have been Marussia's Jules Bianchi.
"I am part of the Ferrari academy," the Frenchman told RMC Sport, "so I think that if they have a (driver) problem, they can call me.
"It's a good thing that Ferrari thought of me," added Bianchi.
Struggling Hamilton to race new chassis
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton will tackle the last two grands prix of the season with a new Mercedes chassis.
After a series of modest results for the 2008 world champion recently, the Brackley based team investigated Hamilton's problem and found a "large crack" in his chassis, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports.
"This might explain Hamilton's disappointing race results," said the correspondent Michael Schmidt.
Hamilton won the inaugural grand prix in Austin a year ago for McLaren, but on Thursday admitted he is unlikely to repeat that feat in 2013.
"Vettel has been half a minute in front in the last races," the Briton is quoted as saying, "so it's hard to imagine we're going to be in front of him suddenly.
"My plan is to qualify in front of him, then I can try my best to stay ahead of him in the race," added Hamilton.
Given Hamilton's recent struggles, however, Nico Rosberg on Thursday said he was determined to chase down the 16 point deficit to his Mercedes teammate in the remaining two grands prix of 2013.
"It's very important to be ahead of Lewis in the end," the German is quoted by the SID news agency, "because your teammate is always your most important comparison.
"So I'd rather be in front than behind," Rosberg smiled.
In fact, with Kimi Raikkonen now out of action, Rosberg said he would also like to leapfrog the Finn in the drivers' standings, for third overall.
"Third is still mathematically possible," he said, "so that's the goal. The last two races were good, so I want to continue like that."
Like Hamilton, however, Rosberg sees Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel as too dominant to challenge for another race win.
"Red Bull is just too fast in all respects," he said, "especially Sebastian. He's on another planet."
Sauber has paid electricity bill - Kaltenborn
(GMM) Sauber on Thursday insisted it has paid an overdue electricity bill.
The Swiss business newspaper Handelszeitung reported this week that the canton of Zurich has filed a new EUR 44,000 claim against Sauber for the unpaid bill.
It was just the latest sign that Sauber's financial problems are still far from resolved, despite the supposed 'Russian rescue deal' involving potential 2014 driver Sergey Sirotkin.
Referring to the electricity bill, team boss Monisha Kaltenborn told Swiss radio SRF1: "The invoice was paid on Thursday morning in accordance with the payment schedule."
However, Handeslzeitung said the electricity bill was actually just one of a whopping 57 debt claims made against Sauber, totaling almost EUR 500,000.
Kaltenborn admitted Sauber is in a "challenging situation", but insisted the team is "on track" and going "step by step" towards a brighter future.
She also said the earlier unpaid Nico Hulkenberg has received money recently.
"We talked about it with him and clarified the situation," said Kaltenborn. "A payment was made."
Raikkonen surgery 'went well' - report
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen is now recovering from successful back surgery, according to Finland's MTV Sport.
After suffering with severe pain from an old back injury at grands prix recently, the Finn elected to sit out the last two races of 2013 in order to have the operation well ahead of his 2014 switch to Ferrari.
The surgery, performed on Thursday, "went well", MTV reported, and the 34-year-old "can start light exercise in 4 to 6 weeks".
For the last two races of 2013 in Austin and Brazil, Lotus replaced Raikkonen with his Finnish countryman Heikki Kovalainen.
Magnussen risks ending career 'very early' - Button
(GMM) Stepping straight into a top F1 team is a "massive risk" for a rookie, Jenson Button said on Thursday.
The continuing McLaren driver was referring to the British team's decision to replace Sergio Perez with the new Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen.
Button admitted he was surprised to hear of McLaren's decision to give him a new teammate for the second consecutive year, having said recently he thinks Mexican Perez deserved to stay in 2014.
"It's one of those positions where it could light up your career or put an end to your career very early if things don't go well," the 2009 world champion told reporters in Austin.
"It's a massive risk to be put in the deep end, if you like, with a team that should be fighting for a title.
"But if a driver is willing to take that risk, he has a lot of confidence in himself and his ability," added Button.
The news has put Perez, just 23, in a difficult position with just two races left to run in 2013.
But, even though McLaren's decision might end his F1 career altogether, Perez has been reasonably polite about the team through the media so far.
McLaren, meanwhile, has paid kind tribute to Perez's contribution and talent.
"Perez thanked McLaren as though they have done him a favor," said a frustrated Michael Schmidt, the highly respected correspondent for Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
"And McLaren has praised Perez in a way that makes you wonder why in the world they're separating. It's dishonest," said Schmidt.
"A bit more honesty would be appropriate. McLaren should say why his contract is not being renewed, and Perez should be allowed to say what he thinks about the late notice.
"If they're both just singing each other's praises, they treat us - the fans - like we're stupid," added Schmidt.
In fact, Perez acknowledged on Thursday that McLaren's late call could leave him without a seat in 2014, and perhaps also 2015.
"Probably I will leave formula one and find something else for a year or two," he told F1's official website.
Perez denied McLaren's call is related to his Mexican backing, but there is no denying that the driver market is being severely affected by commercial considerations ahead of the 2014 season.
The F1-departing Mark Webber on Thursday said it is an "unhealthy" situation for F1.
One example is Force India. Adrian Sutil has been hinting for a few weeks now that his 2014 contract is signed and sealed, although announced.
He said on Thursday: "It's good to have a contract, but if someone comes along with 30 million, then a contract doesn't have much value."
COTA President Says Race Taking Proactive Steps To Stay Lively In Second Year
Circuit of the Americas President Jason Dial said that after a very successful inaugural year, the racetrack is “going to avoid the sophomore slump.” The Austin, Texas circuit, which will host the U.S. F1 Grand Prix on Sunday, has been taking proactive measures to achieve this goal -- from offering raceday tickets aimed at locals to convincing hotels to keep their prices in check. “What it comes down to is making sure that all those who thought about coming last year, but didn’t, come this year,” said Dial, who stepped into the COTA job on Oct. 1. In addition, a survey showed that 94% of the folks that attended the F1 race last year said that they “will absolutely come back.”
Asked about ticket sales for this year’s F1 event, Dial said, “We are very excited what this weekend is going to hold. We are going to be up 30 percent on our general admission. We are up very strong in our high-end hospitality. We are really seeing a great pull there as well.” The growth in general admission seems to be partly due to the circuit’s decision to offer raceday tickets for Sunday’s grand prix -- an option that did not exist last year. The price for a race-day ticket starts at $129 -- a three-day weekend ticket for last year’s event was more than $200 -- and is aimed at locals from Austin and other areas in Texas.
Dial: “Those who are coming from out of state want the three days; they are coming in for the weekend. This is for our Austinites. This is for our friends in Houston and Dallas. Call it the Texas triangle, or the state of Texas. This is to make sure that we are friendly, frankly to our locals.” However, despite the new ticket, the event is again on course for an attendance of 55% from out of state, just like ’12.
HOTEL HASSLE: One of the concerns fans voiced last year was that hotels made the trip very expensive, more so than the race, Dial said. Taking its fans seriously, the racetrack talked to the hotels. Dial: “So it was very important for us to work with the hotels to make sure that they weren’t making the hurdle too burdensome.” Whether or not the talks had any effect on hotel prices, people once again have flocked to the race. More than 40 countries will be represented and all 50 states again, Dial said. He added, “More than 50 percent of the people that will be here this weekend weren’t here last year, so we’ve driven incredible awareness. And folks are taking us up on coming and seeing what Austin can do hosting an F1 race.”
COLLEGE CONFLICT: When the Circuit of the Americas welcomed the F1 circuit last year, it made sure that the University of Texas Longhorns football team did not have a home game on the same weekend. Not this year. The Texas Longhorns will take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys at 2:30 pm Saturday afternoon. While the two parties tried to coordinate and avoid a scheduling conflict, it simply did not work out this year. Asked about the impact the college football game will have on Saturday’s attendance, Dial said, “The reality is, I’m not sure if it really hurts us or not. We are trying to have a price point that allows people to try us, to try and get to know F1. Come out to the Circuit of the Americas.” There certainly will be some of the hundred-plus thousand people that will be at that game on Saturday that would maybe have joined Saturday’s qualifying session, he added. Dial: “But I think maybe we’ll get some that maybe didn’t have it on their schedule, but they are like, ‘Hey, we are in Austin, so maybe I should take it in.’” In the end, Dial said, “It’s important that we create an experience that people leave wanting more." HJ Mai, SportsBusinessDaily.com
Two F1 figures say Perez too 'arrogant'
(GMM) Two respected F1 figures have rounded on Sergio Perez's attitude, as it emerges the Mexican is fighting for his future.
With Perez dropped by McLaren after just one season, the British team's former long-time manager Jo Ramirez said the 23-year-old's big weakness is his "arrogance".
"The syndrome of becoming an F1 driver went to his head very fast," Ramirez, a former advisor to Perez and a fellow Mexican, told Cancha newspaper.
"Checo grew a lot as a driver during the last three years in F1, but unfortunately he didn't grow as a person at the same rate," he added.
Another well-connected figure, the respected correspondent for Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, agrees.
"The relationship between the Mexican and McLaren never took off," said journalist Livio Oricchio.
"Formula one is not just about commitment; it's more than that. It's interaction, working together, two sides committed to the same goals; winning and losing together.
"Perez is not the kind of man who does that," he said.
Oricchio said his sources not only at McLaren, but also at Perez's former team Sauber, confirm that Perez "has an arrogant attitude".
And that attitude, Oricchio added, is disliked by many.
"I've interviewed him a few times, even this year," he explained. "He doesn't look in your eyes and wants it to be over. In his working groups it is no different.
"In summary, human relationships have so much to do with success in formula one. Without it, you go nowhere," said Oricchio.