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Latest F1 news in brief - Tuesday (Update) UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Horner gets an earful from Sebastian Vettel over the 'lemon' he will be driving this year.  Horner predicts Mercedes powered cars will lap the field
    Horner tips Mercedes driver for 2014 title
  • Red Bull could give up on 2014 chase - Trulli
  • Barrichello hopes Massa fights for title
  • No Monaco move for backmarker rookie Ericsson
  • Experts say Schumacher recovery now unlikely
  • Berger thought of Schumacher after own ski fall
  • Oz 'one month' too early for Toro Rosso
  • Two DRS zones retained for Melbourne New
  • Critics question whether Australia's Walker is too close to Ecclestone New

Horner tips Mercedes driver for 2014 title
(GMM)  Red Bull boss Christian Horner is predicting an all-Mercedes silver duel for the 2014 title.

"Lewis (Hamilton) and Nico (Rosberg) -- who else is there?" he is quoted by the Times after a disastrous winter for reigning quadruple world champions Red Bull.

Horner may not sound confident about Red Bull's chances with its struggling Renault-powered RB10, but he is not writing off the Milton Keynes based team.

"If people write us off, that's their choice," he said.

Horner insisted Red Bull is "up for the challenge" of nonetheless climbing a "pretty steep mountain" in 2014, acknowledging that the team's position right now is not good.

"It seems the Mercedes-powered teams are in good shape and we are, er, not," he smiled.

Renault is taking much of the blame for the crisis, but car designer Adrian Newey admits Red Bull might also have been wiser.

"Looking back," he told the April issue of the Red Bulletin magazine, "it would have been smarter to concentrate full power on the new car earlier on.

"(But) in August, no one could have guessed that we would be so far ahead by the end of the (2013) season," Newey added.

Outside Red Bull, there are cries of relief that Red Bull's run of dominance appears over.

"One team destroying it for four years, having ass-whipped so badly, is not good for the sport," Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton is quoted by the Express.

"I've been flying through all these airports and keep bumping into someone from a different country who says they used to watch F1 but not anymore," he added.

McLaren's Jenson Button fully agrees that Red Bull's problems are good for F1.

"It's sad to say we think like that but it's the case.  They've been too dominant," he is quoted by the Telegraph.

Horner, however, suggested that Mercedes' advantage could prove just as boring in 2014.

"If they were to finish two laps ahead of the opposition in Melbourne, that wouldn't be a surprise, based on what we've seen in pre-season testing," he is quoted by the Mirror.

"They invested more, they invested earlier.  They have got themselves into a good position."

Horner claims that with the 'power unit' so important in 2014, Red Bull is at a slight disadvantage compared to its main rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.

"The split between chassis and engine is obviously different in our team than it is at Mercedes and Ferrari," he is quoted by the Guardian.

"We're not totally integrated."

But even Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull's billionaire team owner, thinks a change of color at the top of the order in 2014 could be welcomed by F1.

"Two hearts beat inside me," he told German news agency DPA.

"As a fan, I am glad it is more exciting again -- maybe our dominance is at an end."

With reports of a recent 'hissy fit' already denied, Mateschitz tipped Sebastian Vettel to "cope" with his new position on the grid.

"I don't think he will have a problem coping with the current situation," he said.  "Just like the entire team, he accepts the challenge."

Vettel, speaking to Austrian Servus TV, agrees: "We were very successful in recent years, achieving many things, but we always knew it would not always be so."

Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda would agree with that assessment of the pecking order.

"I say it reluctantly," he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF, "but I'm assuming that the first three grid positions (in Melbourne) will have Mercedes engines."

Red Bull could give up on 2014 chase - Trulli
(GMM)  World champion team Red Bull may switch its focus to the 2015 season within weeks if it thinks this year's title is already lost.

That is the view of former F1 driver Jarno Trulli, who told Italy's Il Giornale newspaper that the Milton Keynes based team is a long way behind its rivals for the start of the new turbo V6 era.

"Red Bull made a mistake with the design of its machine, but they will cope," the 39-year-old said.

"The team is seriously behind its opponents," added Trulli.

"If in a couple of months they have not caught up, I think they will switch the preparations to next season and use the race weekends as tests," he said.

Meanwhile, Trulli admitted he is no big fan of the 'new' formula one, where each driver will have to conserve a limited amount of fuel in order to reach the checkered flag.

Asked if he likes the 'new' F1, he answered: "No.

"I like the formula one where the driver takes the maximum from the car all the time."

Barrichello hopes Massa fights for title
(GMM)  Felipe Massa can take his Williams all the way to the 2014 title.

That is the view of Brazilian countryman and F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello, who completed the last of his more than 300 grands prix amid the same Grove based team's slump in 2011.

Williams' slump, however, appears over now, with the specialist German magazine Auto Motor und Sport finding that the new FW36 could even be faster than the works Mercedes based on race simulations at the Bahrain test.

"Felipe has a good chance at Williams," 41-year-old Barrichello, likening Massa's Ferrari exit to his own "rebirth" at Brawn GP, told Globo.

"I hope he can go very well, win races and fight for the title, just as I did that year (2009)."

Barrichello is travelling to Australia this week, where he will continue his role in 2014 as an expert pundit for Brazilian television.

"I've been following all the tests and am anxious to see if the Williams car is as competitive as it seems," he said.

"The team to beat at the moment is Mercedes, but Williams is there."

No Monaco move for backmarker rookie Ericsson
(GMM)  F1 rookie Marcus Ericsson has no plans to move to Monaco.

Many drivers enjoy the Principality's glamorous lifestyle and tax benefits, but 23-year-old Ericsson told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat he is staying put in Kumlo, in his native Sweden.

"When you have no idea how long this adventure might last, and you don't yet have a great income, it is pointless to move to another country," Ericsson told F1 correspondent Heikki Kulta.

F1's famous 'Super Swede' Ronnie Peterson, twice runner-up for the championship before he crashed and died in 1978, also harked from Sweden's Orebro county.

Ericsson will drive for the backmarker Caterham in 2014.

"We've done everything possible to prepare," he said, "but I doubt that anyone has been able to prepare completely.

"All I know is that I am ready and am able to drive very fast."

Experts say Schumacher recovery now unlikely
(GMM)  Two experts have warned that the old Michael Schumacher is probably now gone.

Britain's respected Telegraph newspaper recently cited sources in reporting that the F1 legend's family has been told by the medical team at Grenoble that, ten weeks into his coma, "only a miracle" will save him now.

And the chief doctor at a rehabilitation hospital in Basel, Switzerland, told Sonntagsblick newspaper: "The likelihood of a complete recovery for Schumacher is constantly lower.

"The famous, laughing, fast Schumi will probably not be seen again," coma specialist Mark Mader added.

"The longer someone is in a coma, the less well the brain can recover.  When (Schumacher is) awake, severe damage is likely to remain."

Mader also defended those experts who have been speculating about Schumacher's condition and recovery, despite criticism.

"What is really the case with him, no one knows," he said.  "Not even his medical team.  The speculation is ultimately the prognosis."

According to Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, tests at the Grenoble hospital have shown that Schumacher, 45, is not paralyzed.

But there are also rumors the great German, who weighed about 75kg at the time of his skiing crash in the French alps, has lost twenty kilograms in hospital.

Schumacher's last F1 teammate, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, told an interview with Playboy magazine that reports of his countryman's condition are affecting him, as he knew the seven time world champion well.

"But I think that, if anyone can do it, it is Michael, with his will to fight," said Rosberg.

Berger thought of Schumacher after own ski fall
(GMM)  Gerhard Berger has admitted he thought of fellow F1 legend Michael Schumacher when he lay injured in the snow late last week.

Austrian Berger, a former Ferrari and McLaren driver and ex BMW and Toro Rosso F1 chief, is now recovering at home after surgery for a badly broken arm suffered when he fell at the Skiwelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental resort in Austria.

Unlike the comatose Schumacher, who tripped on a rock and struck another with his head in the French alps, 54-year-old Berger fell on a forest road onto a concrete drainage pipe.

"Further to the left and I would have hit my head on it," he told the Austrian news agency APA.

"Good and bad luck lie so closely together."

Berger confirmed that he had surgery on the injury to insert a plate with twelve screws in his arm.

"Even a nerve was injured, so I cannot really move my wrist, but I will again.  The bottom line is that it was painful, but I'm glad it was that and no more.

"I already have some plates in my body, so it's just one more."

Asked if he thought of Schumacher's serious injuries when he was laying in the snow, Berger admitted: "Of course I did.

"It was similar to him -- I was not going fast or doing a risky move."

Berger, who recently attended the Bahrain tests, will watch this weekend's Melbourne season opener from home.

Oz 'one month' too early for Toro Rosso
After switching from Ferrari to Renault power for 2014, the team has endured a difficult pre-season dominated by recurring reliability and performance concerns.

It will therefore enter the Australian Grand Prix having completed less than half the mileage of early favorite Mercedes.

Tost admits the team is not fully ready for the season to commence, but says there is no sense of despondency about the situation, particularly given the encouraging progress the team made over the final two days in Bahrain.

"So far, we're in line with maybe the race starting one month too early," Tost said.

"I would like to have another two, three weeks' time to test, but nevertheless that is how it is scheduled.

"We have to make the best out of it.

"We improved the performance, especially [over] the last two days [in Bahrain pre-season], so we are [heading] in a good way."

Gary Anderson's 2014 testing review

While Tost admitted the team still has outstanding performance work, he said the need to improve reliability will take absolute precedence in the early stages of the season.

"The first, and decisive, factor will be to see the checkered flag," he explained.

"So our main topic is to improve reliability.

"We will see [after] where we are from the performance [side].

"From the technical side we still have to sort out some issues with the power unit but Renault is aware of this; I accept that it's part of the new process.

"Let's wait for the first race to see where we really are.

"They [Renault] are professional enough and have enough experience to sort out any weak points. I'm convinced about this." Yahoo Eurosport

Two DRS zones retained for Melbourne
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix will again feature two DRS zones, the FIA has confirmed.

As per the past two seasons, the governing body has place one activation point just before the apex of Turn 14, with separate activation areas following along the start-finish straight and between Turns 2 and 3.

Drivers will be able to freely use DRS in the designated zones throughout free practice and qualifying sessions, although they must be within a second of a car ahead to deploy the overtaking device on race day.

This season, the DRS flap is permitted to open as wide as 65mm, 15mm more than the 2013 campaign, but will any cars finish the race for it to matter?

Critics question whether Australia's Walker is too close to Ecclestone
Melbourne's 19th consecutive grand prix will take place this weekend, but the future of the Australian Grand Prix remains in limbo, subject to highly confidential negotiations with Formula One's controversial strongman Bernie Ecclestone.

The F1 boss has ruled the multi-billion-dollar business with an iron fist for 30 years, accumulating a $3 billion personal fortune in the process.

Victorian taxpayers have paid a high price to stage the grand prix year on year - $56 million in 2012 and $50 million in 2013 - and current negotiations between Ecclestone and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation have been ongoing for some time.

Ecclestone has famously said that he would only negotiate with one man, the corporation's chairman and close friend Ron Walker.

Mr. Walker has led negotiations on behalf of Victorian taxpayers for decades, but questions linger over whether his proximity to Ecclestone represents a conflict of interest.

With Ecclestone set to face a German court in April over allegations he paid a $44 million bribe to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, anti-grand prix campaigners say Mr. Walker is too close to the F1 supremo to be negotiating on behalf of taxpayers.

Mr. Walker is himself a highly successful businessman and a former treasurer of the federal Liberal Party.

He co-founded Crown Casino, a major beneficiary of the Grand Prix. His own wealth has been estimated by Business Review Weekly at $775 million.

Amid the hoopla of the grand prix launch Mr. Walker has tried to distance himself from the Ecclestone scandal.

"They're his issues not ours, and we're negotiating directly with his team and we'll get a successful outcome but we're not rushing anything, we're not blinking," he said.

Mr. Walker is not involved in the Ecclestone litigation, but the two men are close.

"Bernie Ecclestone and Ron Walker are very close and still are, they're old colleagues and friends," Ecclestone's authorized biographer Tom Bower said.

In a personal response to a protester's letter at the end of 1999, Mr. Walker wrote that Ecclestone was his "dearest friend".

"I for one am proud to call Bernie Ecclestone my dearest friend, and friends like him are hard to find in life," he said.

"As a trustee of his family trust, at his direction I distribute tens of millions of dollars to the most needy causes in the world each year."

We are of the clear view that [Ron Walker] should be replaced by someone independent of Bernie Ecclestone because he has admitted he is a friend of his and there have been stories that he has assisted Mr. Ecclestone in selling part of his business

While chief negotiator for the Australian Grand Prix in 1999, Mr. Walker helped Ecclestone find a buyer for $712 million worth of Formula One shares.

The shares were soon on-sold for a large profit.

Critics of the grand prix say Mr. Walker benefited from the sale and he should not be in charge of negotiations on behalf of taxpayers.

"Out of that it was reported that Mr. Walker was paid a success fee," said Peter Logan from the group Save Albert Park.

"We are of the clear view that he should be replaced by someone independent of Bernie Ecclestone because he has admitted he is a friend of his and there have been stories that he has assisted Mr. Ecclestone in selling part of his business."

7.30 asked Mr. Walker for an interview to respond to allegations he is too close to Ecclestone to be negotiating on behalf of taxpayers.

However, Mr. Walker said he was too sick to do an interview. In a written response his office responded in general terms.

"It is well known Mr. Walker has a professional working relationship with Mr. Ecclestone," the statement said.

"At no time has that professional working relationship impacted on Mr. Walker's decision-making in relation to the Australian Grand Prix and he has at all times acted in the best interests of all Victorians."

From the beginning, protests against staging the grand prix in Melbourne's Albert Park were steamrolled at the behest of the government and the Grand Prix Corporation.

The protesters now sense the wind may have finally changed in their favor as they question whether it is appropriate that Mr. Walker continues lead the negotiations.

"When there is such large amounts of money involved it would be better to have someone who is totally at arm's length to Formula One to do our negotiations on our behalf," said Peter Goad, a spokesman for Save Albert Park.

"It seems unwise to continue to have Mr. Walker to negotiate Formula One."

Many are also skeptical of figures provided for Victorian taxpayers over the years to justify their annual outlay.

Premier Denis Napthine says 450 million people watch the grand prix around the world, figures that Mr. Logan says are "rubbish".

"That is the total viewing audience for the whole year for every race," he said.

"So the Melbourne race, we've estimated that it's around 10 to 15 million. They know the figures and they are not telling the truth."

"The Grand Prix Corporation, when we took them through our tribunal here - [freedom of information] - they said they do not know how many people attend the grand prix," he said.

"Their ticket sales figures show that there's probably only around 70,000 tickets sold.

"So if the place is nearly empty for the first two days, that crowd number is probably overstated by 100,000 to 150,000."

Mr. Walker's office said the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has not found fault with its estimates of attendance figures, but there was no response regarding television audience figures being overinflated. abc.net.au

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