Latest F1 news in brief - Wednesday
Vettel could exit amid Red Bull crisis - Marko
|Vettel is the best and he won't like driving this year's Red Bull lemon|
- Haug returns to motor racing with DTM
- Vettel still not confirming fatherhood
- Lauda denies money powered Mercedes dominance
- Marko relationship will ensure equality - Ricciardo
- No F1 boycott to punish Russia - Lauda
- McLaren adds black to 2014 race livery
- Lauda 'annoyed' by Schumacher rumors
- New V6 era is 'pure F1' - Berger
- Di Resta yet to secure Mercedes F1 role
- New Nurburgring owner to keep 'affordable' F1
- India GP problems 'money related' - Ecclestone
- F1 co-owner says deal 'a mistake'
- Pat Fry: Time to go racing
- Di Montezemolo fears F1 turned into 'taxi-cab' series
- Schumacher shows signs of improvement New
Vettel could exit amid Red Bull crisis - Marko
(GMM) Red Bull needs to up its game or risk losing Sebastian Vettel.
That is the admission of the team's always-blunt Dr Helmut Marko, as quadruple reigning world champion Vettel prepares to either retire or finish outside the points as the 2014 season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne.
Marko admitted to Germany's Bild newspaper: "If our disastrous state does not change soon, I could not blame him for thinking about a change."
Vettel, 26, sat down with his mechanics in Melbourne on Tuesday for his traditional pre-season dinner, where he named his uncompetitive RB10 car an unspectacular 'Suzie'.
Marko told Sport Bild magazine: "After the test in Bahrain, we would be happy if we finish in the points in Australia.
"We know that we have a good car," he added, "but we'll only know if the engine is good if we get it to work properly.
"The decisive factor is the new software that our engineers wrote for Renault."
The undoubted favorite for the Albert Park opener is Mercedes, and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone on Tuesday tipped Lewis Hamilton to win the title.
But 1996 world champion Damon Hill told the Daily Mail: "I would warn Lewis not to underestimate Nico (Rosberg)."
Indeed, the flamboyant 2008 world champion Hamilton is often the Mercedes driver on everybody's lips, but the German told the DPA news agency that he doesn't mind.
"I do feel that the fans appreciate me," Rosberg said, "and I am grateful for their support."
Team chairman Niki Lauda said opinions about Mercedes' drivers are often formed because of Hamilton's "brutal force of talent".
But he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF: "Nico is characterized in that he thinks in a very technical way -- almost like Vettel.
"The two (Hamilton and Rosberg) complement each other very well."
Rosberg said: "I have a feeling that this could be our year and that's very exciting."
Still, the 28-year-old and the Brackley based team are cautious. "To say now that we will become world champions because of the good tests would be totally wrong and premature," boss Toto Wolff told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.
And a forecast of rain for Melbourne is making Lauda nervous.
"We have never driven with these turbo engines in the rain," he said, "so it is possible that even more problems could turn up."
Haug returns to motor racing with DTM
(GMM) Norbert Haug is returning to motor racing.
Having lost his role as Mercedes' motor sport chief, the 61-year-old found a new job at a German company specializing in vehicle mobility for disabled people.
But Germany's Bild newspaper now reports that Haug is set to be the new main pundit for the ARD broadcaster, in the German coverage of the DTM touring car series.
Haug would not confirm the news, but Bild claims the deal was agreed on Tuesday.
Niki Lauda, the Mercedes chairman who is the face of German broadcaster RTL's F1 coverage, said: "Norbert, welcome to the club! I am happy for him.
"It is understandable that (Mercedes' DTM rivals) BMW and Audi are not thrilled, but I have never had a problem with being objective. And Norbert will not either," he insisted.
Vettel still not confirming fatherhood
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel is still refusing to comment on - or even confirm - his new status as a father.
Having confirmed his partner Hanna's pregnancy at the eleventh hour late last year, the reigning world champion reportedly kicked off 2014 by welcoming their first child, a daughter, into the world.
It is believed the baby was born in Switzerland, but even its name is not publicly known.
Told during an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag that he obviously does not like to talk about his new family, Vettel insisted: "And even now I will not.
"Private is private."
When the 26-year-old named his 2014 Red Bull car 'Suzie' in Melbourne on Tuesday, many thought it might be a hint as to his daughter's name.
But Bild newspaper said: "Not so."
Given Vettel's notoriously guarded nature, it is little surprise the sports research firm Repucom this week found that fiery Fernando Alonso, flamboyant Lewis Hamilton and even likeable Felipe Massa are all more commercially marketable than the highly-successful Vettel.
Lauda denies money powered Mercedes dominance
(GMM) Niki Lauda has dismissed claims Mercedes is set to dominate the 2014 season because the German carmaker spent more on its new turbo V6 'power unit'.
"It is no secret," Renault-powered Lotus' team owner Gerard Lopez said this week, "that we face an extremely well-resourced rival in Mercedes who have dedicated considerable efforts to their power units for the 2014 season."
Red Bull's Christian Horner added this week: "They (Mercedes) invested more, they invested earlier."
Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger told the APA news agency: "They (Mercedes) are ahead of the game because they invested more money."
And even Ferrari is claiming it has been out-powered in the resources department by Mercedes as F1 makes its revolutionary technical shift.
"If we had more time," boss Stefano Domenicali told Italy's Autosprint, "maybe we would be more prepared for the start of the season.
"The complexity of this project is really high and our resources are, so to speak, limited."
Domenicali said that on the other hand, Mercedes has "more specific" engine-related "firepower", that has "exaggerated" the early phase of F1's new era.
"It is clear that they have been in a position to arrive at the start having solved all the problems that we have only found," the Italian insisted.
But Lauda, who is Mercedes' F1 chairman, disputes the claim that Mercedes is so far ahead.
"We will only know when the first three races are over," he told RTL television, "but I think Ferrari is on roughly the same level as Mercedes.
"The only one that really struggles at the moment is Renault. They do not have the reliability that we have, simply because we have done a better job.
"But that has nothing to do with money," Lauda insisted.
Told, however, that Mercedes has clearly invested more than its rivals in the development of its new V6, the great Austrian answered: "No.
"Our team is the same as it has been; the investments for all three engine manufacturers are the same.
"Nothing has changed in the basic structure of the three companies," said Lauda.
He also thinks Renault is probably not far away from solving its problems, however dramatic the French marque's situation appears.
"We all know that in formula one, rapid development jumps are possible," said Lauda.
"And if Renault just has software problems, it (Renault's recovery) could be really fast."
Marko relationship will ensure equality - Ricciardo
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo is not expecting to slot into predecessor Mark Webber's awkward position within the Red Bull hierarchy.
Australian Webber, who has left F1 for Porsche's new Le Mans foray, often hinted that his side of the garage was not treated as fairly as was teammate Sebastian Vettel's.
Now, another Australian, 24-year-old Ricciardo, has stepped straight into Webber's shoes.
"Obviously," countryman and 1980 world champion Alan Jones told the Sydney Morning Herald this week, "if there is any sort of leaning in that team, it's probably slightly Germanic."
But as far as Ricciardo is concerned, Webber's situation may simply have been created by his slightly awkward relationship with Red Bull powerbroker Dr Helmut Marko.
The blunt Marko famously groomed Vettel from boyhood, but Ricciardo has similarly worked his way through the very same Red Bull development program.
"It definitely doesn't hurt," Ricciardo told Fairfax Media in Melbourne this week.
"Knowing Dr Marko for a long time and him knowing me, knowing that I've had his full support since day one, it's not going to make me question anything, put it that way.
"I'm 100 per cent sure they are going to give me as much opportunity as Seb," he insisted.
"Where Mark, for whatever reasons, maybe did (question the equality), it won't be the case (with me)," said Ricciardo. "I'll come in with a positive approach."
No F1 boycott to punish Russia - Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda has dismissed suggestions formula one should boycott October's inaugural Russian grand prix.
Amid the escalating crisis in the Crimean peninsula, it has been suggested that part of the sanctions against Russia's behavior should be to scrap the new Vladimir Putin-sponsored F1 race in Sochi.
Even after the Ukrainian situation worsened, president Putin met with Bernie Ecclestone in Sochi and said the F1 race would be "a bright, beautiful addition" hot on the heels of a successful winter Olympics.
When asked if Russia's sanctions should include a boycott of its grand prix, Mercedes' F1 chairman Lauda answered: "That is completely pointless.
"All those responsible have decided that we are racing there," he told German television RTL, "so in this case we have an obligation, and that extends to Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA."
McLaren adds black to 2014 race livery
(GMM) McLaren has tweaked the livery of its 2014 car ahead of the Melbourne season opener.
The Mercedes-powered car launched by the Woking based team and tested throughout the winter was all silver, with 'MP4-29' marked on the silver sidepods in the wake of title sponsor Vodafone's departure.
But spotted in the Albert Park pitlane on Tuesday was revised bodywork for the MP4-29's sidepods, featuring detailed black livery markings reminiscent of the team's old 'West' era.
A photo of the sidepods, published by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, can be seen here.
Lauda 'annoyed' by Schumacher rumors
(GMM) Niki Lauda has admitted to being "saddened" and "annoyed" by the constant rumors of Michael Schumacher's medical condition.
While official news is scarce, publications continue to speculate about the great seven time world champion's health and prospects in the wake of his late December skiing crash and coma.
"Unfortunately, at the moment there is no news," triple world champion and Mercedes F1 chairman Lauda told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.
"But the rumors are constantly appearing, and it saddens me because every day I wait for some encouraging news that the situation is beginning to improve," he said.
"Recently it was reported that Michael can breathe on his own, which would be great news but then it turned out to be wrong," said Lauda, who is still scarred from his near-fatal Nurburgring crash in 1976.
"I am annoyed by these reports," he admitted. "Nevertheless, we are all waiting for better news."
New V6 era is 'pure F1' - Berger
(GMM) Gerhard Berger is no longer critical of F1's technological revolution.
Having counted himself among the 'purists' who dislike the complicated energy recovery systems and fuel-saving limitations, the former Ferrari and Benetton driver told APA news agency he has now changed his mind.
"From my perspective," he told the Austrian agency, "it is a big step forward.
"Until my visit to (the) Bahrain (test), I was critical," said 54-year-old Berger, currently recovering from badly breaking his arm in a skiing crash.
"At first I found it too technical, too complicated for the fans," he explained. "But I need to revise that. This is pure formula one.
"The cars are 20kph faster on the straights and they also have real power out of the corners."
10-time grand prix Berger, perhaps best known as F1 legend Ayrton Senna's McLaren teammate, also said he has no problem with the milder tones of the new V6 engines.
"The criticism (of the sound) is coming mainly from people who have not heard them," he said.
Di Resta yet to secure Mercedes F1 role
(GMM) Now mere hours before the engines are fired up in Melbourne, Paul di Resta still has not secured a new F1 role for 2014.
Having lost his Force India seat and secured a return to the DTM series this year, the Scot was hoping to become Mercedes' new F1 reserve driver.
"I hope he gets that opportunity," former F1 driver David Coulthard told the Scotsman newspaper recently.
"If he doesn't, it might be difficult to find his way back into F1, simply because of the political and financial nature of the business."
Now, two days before practice kicks off at Albert Park for the 2014 season opener, di Resta admits he has "nothing yet" lined up with DTM employer Mercedes' F1 program.
"My desire is to be involved in formula one in some way, shape or form," the 27-year-old told the PA Sport news agency.
"Staying as actively as you can in the sport is important, and if there is any chance to get back then hopefully that can happen," di Resta added.
"Obviously I'm sad not to be there (in Melbourne), but I'm planning on trying to get to a few races, and when it comes back to Europe it will be far easier."
New Nurburgring owner to keep 'affordable' F1
(GMM) F1's Nurburgring future now appears brighter, after the embattled German grand prix venue was bought for a reported EUR 100 million.
A week ago, it was reported that Miami-based private equity company HIG Capital was the high bidder for the fabled venue, having pledged EUR 60-70 million.
But it now emerges in the pages of Der Spiegel that the buyer is in fact a Dusseldorf based automotive group called Capricorn.
Boss Robertino Wild confirmed the news at a press conference, saying Capricorn is committed to keeping formula one at the Nurburgring "as long as it remains affordable".
SID news agency said Capricorn is paying EUR 77 million euros, as well as immediately pumping in an additional 25 million to invest in the circuit.
Wild said the Nurburgring will "basically go as it was before", with the exception of the disastrous amusement park and roller coaster, to be shut down.
India GP problems 'money related' - Ecclestone
(GMM) The promoter of India's beleaguered formula one race breached its contract, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has revealed.
Last week, as Ecclestone announced the New Delhi race will not be run either in 2014 or 2015, the 83-year-old said the problems were mainly related to tax and bureaucracy.
But he has now told the IANS news agency: "The race promoters there (Jaypee) have not been able to comply with parts of the contract and they (the breaches) are mostly money related."
Ecclestone said he is hoping the problems can be resolved so that F1 can return to India.
"India is among the few new F1 venues where people understand the sport and want to understand it better," said the Briton. "That is why I have greater faith in India than China.
"I must clarify here that we still have very good relations with the (Indian) promoters and we still want to see through the remaining two years of our contract.
"But that can happen only if we get the financial guarantees," Ecclestone added.
Last week, Ecclestone said an Indian grand prix was unlikely to return in 2015, but he has now opened the door to that possibility.
"I am still trying for 2015 and we have got about two months time to make that happen," he said. "We really want to get back."
F1 co-owner says deal 'a mistake'
(GMM) One of F1's owners has admitted buying into the sport was "a mistake".
In 2012, Norway's central bank Norges bought a 21 per cent share in formula one along with two other investors, asset managers Waddell and Reed, and Blackrock.
But within Norway, the deal was heavily criticized, and that criticism is now reaching boiling point amid F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone's legal troubles.
"We have clearly indicated that we have a zero tolerance to corruption," the Norwegian sovereign oil fund director Yngve Slyngstad told business daily Dagens Naeringsliv this week.
"Yes, we have made a mistake," he admitted.
Ecclestone will be tried on bribery and corruption charges in a German criminal court next month, and according to F1 business journalist Christian Sylt, the latest twist is that Ecclestone's former lawyer Stephen Mullens has also been charged.
Norges' Slyngstad added: "Obviously if this affair is not handled properly we would not want to be a shareholder. In that case we would not hold on to our shares."
Pat Fry: Time to go racing
This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix is the most eagerly anticipated race for a very long time. If the sport had become a bit predictable in recent years, then this season is the antidote: never mind whose going to win Round 1 in Melbourne, the bigger question is who is going to finish, or perhaps even start?
During winter testing, the emphasis was very much on reliability, but now it’s time to go racing so, ready or not, the teams have to consider the practicalities of getting through a Grand Prix weekend. “On the mechanical side, there’s a huge increase in complexity, so just working out the best way to build the car, change parts, rebuild it and how to be best prepared in Melbourne is a major task” – says to www.ferrari.com the Scuderia’s Engineering Director, Pat Fry. “Through the tests we worked 24 hours a day, running shifts to ensure the car was ready, but once we get to Melbourne we are more restricted by the rules regarding what we can actually do and how many hours we are allowed to work.”
Fry reckons the whole face of an F1 weekend is about to change. “In the past, the reliability of Formula 1 cars has been incredible, but this year, their sheer complexity means it will be challenged, particularly in qualifying and the race.” While these initial concerns with reliability will dominate the early races, the actual management of the new powertrain is going to be an interesting new puzzle for engineers and also the drivers. “In some races, we will be fuel limited and we will have to work out the best way to save fuel,” explains Fry. “Effectively we will be balancing electrical energy against fuel consumption and it’s our job to work out what the best combination is for the race.” And once the teams get on top of that, there are all the other “traditional” factors such as aero performance and tire management that haven’t just gone away.
The one area where Scuderia Ferrari has no concerns is in the men who sit at the wheel. Fernando Alonso and his new team-mate Kimi Raikkonen have three world titles and three Melbourne victories between them.
Di Montezemolo fears F1 turned into 'taxi-cab' series
Luca di Montezemolo fears that dynamic, coupled with the constant need to look after tires, will reduce the spectacle of F1 while simultaneously making the races harder for fans to understand.
"I don't like his sort of taxi-cab driving," was quoted as saying by Autosprint.
"What I don't like is this complexity in the interpretation of the race, both from the drivers' and the spectators' point of view.
"Up until yesterday you'd only look at tires: most of the attention went to tire management.
"It was misleading to see a driver in the lead, while realizing that you can't consider him really leading because he would soon pit for a tire change anyway. It was difficult to fully interpret a race.
"These days, on top of all that, you need to add fuel consumption and managing of a race with a limited amount of fuel.
"I prefer the sort of F1 where you need to always push at the limit."
"We can't be among the ones who don't push for a more technological and innovative F1, because we then transfer this knowledge on production cars," he said.
"For us it [has been] like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle: some things have gone the way they were supposed to, others haven't.
"The difficulty has been the balance between the combustion engine and the electrical one; the thing that has pleased me the most was seeing correlation between wind tunnel and track data, which has always been our problem for the last four years.
"These new 'hybrid' F1 cars represent an extremely complex project. The difficulties also encountered by the others demonstrate that.
"Reliability will be important; it will be interesting to see how many cars finish the first race."
Schumacher shows signs of improvement
Michael Schumacher is showing "small, encouraging signs" in his long recovery from "severe injuries", the seven time world champion's management announced on Wednesday in a rare official update.
The statement follows speculation the great former Ferrari and Mercedes driver's family has now been told Schumacher, 45, is unlikely to recover, almost eleven weeks into his coma after a skiing fall in the French alps.
But Schumacher's manager Sabine Kehm said in the communique on Wednesday: "We are confident Michael will pull through and will wake up..
"We are and remain confident that Michael will pull through and wake up," she said.
"There are small, encouraging signs, but we also know that this is the time to be very patient.
"Michael has suffered severe injuries. It is very hard to comprehend for all of us that Michael, who had overcome a lot of precarious situations in the past, has been hurt so terribly in such a banal situation.
"It was clear from the start that this will be a long and hard fight for Michael.
"We are taking this fight on together with the team of doctors, whom we fully trust.
"The length of the process is not the important part for us."
"It is heart-warming to see how much sympathy his family is shown and I can say that the family is extremely grateful for it," said Kehm.
"However, it should not be forgotten that Michael's family is dealing with an extremely intimate and fragile situation.
"And I would like to remind all of us that Michael has always actively kept his family out of the public eye and consequently protected their private lives."