Latest F1 news in brief - Friday (Update) UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
Plea bargain could keep Ecclestone in charge
|Marco Mattiacci in the Ferrari pits in Shanghai|
- Maldonado hits out as 2014 race ban looms
- Ferrari unlikely to recover in 2014 - Malago
- Lotus looks to end crisis in China, Spain
- Formula 1 drivers seek pay issue solutions but rule out strike
- Alonso's reaction to Marco Mattiacci betrays Ferrari's turmoil
- German minister jailed over failed Formula 1 Nurburgring sale
- Marco Mattiacci on leading Ferrari: 'I come with a lot of humility' New
- Tired Mattiacci says Ferrari not giving up New
- Maldonado admits responsibility New
- Alonso encouraged by Ferrari updates New
Plea bargain could keep Ecclestone in charge
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has denied rumors he will strike a plea deal with Munich prosecutors to stay out of jail and in charge of F1.
The sport's chief executive faces up to a ten-year custodial sentence if found guilty at the end of a trial that begins in Germany next week.
But rumors in Shanghai suggest the 83-year-old actually intends to strike a mid-trial deal with prosecutors whereby he pleads guilty but stays out of jail in order to remain in charge of formula one.
Asked about the plea bargain rumors, Ecclestone insisted: "No, not at all.
"I'm going into this trial to prove my innocence of what I'm being charged with," he told the Telegraph.
Donald Mackenzie, the F1 boss at the sport's commercial rights owners CVC, has said that if Ecclestone is found guilty of a criminal offence, he will be sacked.
But, citing a "CVC source", Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson has reported from the scene of the Chinese grand prix that a plea bargain "would throw up a different set of circumstances".
Ecclestone responded: "You should ask Donald.
"What can I say?" the Briton is quoted by the Guardian newspaper. "I can't speak for him."
Maldonado hits out as 2014 race ban looms
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado has hit out at the new 'penalty points' system that could see him having to serve a race ban later in 2014.
After just the opening three grands prix of the season, the Venezuelan already has three 'demerit points' against his F1 super license.
Jules Bianchi, meanwhile, has four.
"I'm not sure if anyone will reach the full 12 but after three races, having four, then he should reach it very soon," Adrian Sutil said in China.
The most serious incident involving Lotus' Maldonado this year was in Bahrain, where contact with Esteban Gutierrez caused the Mexican to roll over.
But he also made a fundamental - and bizarre - mistake in Shanghai practice, when he took his eyes off the track and simply drove off it in a corner.
"I think it's a good system," Gutierrez, referring to penalty points, said in Shanghai.
"It puts some conscience on ourselves to not do wrong moves and to respect each other and to race in a fair way."
Maldonado, however, insists the Bahrain crash was simply "a normal race contact", and so he is critical of the new penalty system.
"We need to avoid the incident but at the same time (with penalty points) you cannot race," he told reporters on Thursday.
"We are racers and we are always risking. If you are competing, you need to take chances.
"So maybe they need to be slightly more flexible. That's my opinion."
Gutierrez is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace as suggesting the biggest problem with Maldonado is that he does not seem to be learning from his mistakes.
"It is pointless to discuss the television images, because they are clear," he said.
"That's the problem: it seems that Pastor is not recognizing his mistakes, he sees things only from his side and I don't think that's right."
Maldonado, however, insisted the Bahrain rollover made the "light knock" appear more dramatic due to the new mandatory low noses on the cars this year.
"With the new noses, when we touched, the car took off. So for the spectator it was quite shocking," he is quoted by Brazil's Globo.
"I think the punishment was related to the magnitude of what we saw, not the contact itself," Maldonado added.
Ferrari unlikely to recover in 2014 - Malago
(GMM) Giovanni Malago says it is unlikely Ferrari will recover from its competitive slump within the 2014 season.
The Italian Olympic chief's name is now well-known in the F1 paddock, after Ferrari this week quoted him as saying he dislikes the sport's 'new' face.
"I hope the people who run the sport look again at the rules because the way formula one is now, it has much less appeal," he had said in the quotes faithfully reproduced on Ferrari's official website.
Now, Malago has admitted he doubts Ferrari can emerge from its competitive slump within the 2014 season, despite Marco Mattiacci having been drafted in with Fiat's backing to replace boss Stefano Domenicali.
"I think that in formula one, as well as in (grand prix) motorcycles, unlike many other sports, it is difficult to overturn your results in the same season," he is quoted by Tuttosport.
"In football," Malago explained, "you can improve and aim to win the championship, but this hardly ever happens in formula one."
But Steve Robertson, the manager of Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, does not agree.
He said the "new generation" of V6-powered cars are only "at the beginning of their life cycle".
"Every team is aware of the massive improvements they can make to their cars," Robertson told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.
"I do not think any team will begin already to focus on their car for next year, at least in the same way as they might have done in the past," he insisted.
Ferrari-powered Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez, however, agrees with Malago that the Maranello marque will struggle to catch up in 2014.
"All the teams with Ferrari engines know they are working hard, making changes, but so far it's not enough," the Mexican is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial newspaper.
"It will not be an easy year for Fernando (Alonso)."
That fact is evident on Alonso's face in the Shanghai paddock.
The dark glasses-wearing Mattiacci finally made his first appearance in a Ferrari uniform on Friday, but several meters separated him from the team's Spanish driver as they walked the length of the Shanghai paddock together.
Earlier, Alonso's first statements about his new boss were far from glowing.
On Thursday, he said he wasn't even sure Mattiacci was making the trip to China, while revealing he has been talking with the departed Domenicali "all the week long".
And when asked about Mattiacci's inexperience, Alonso answered: "It's too early to say if it will be a very good thing or very bad.
"I don't really have much to say. I drive the car," he later added.
Lotus looks to end crisis in China, Spain
(GMM) Lotus is hoping to finally get its 2014 season on track in the next two races.
After a disastrous start to the new turbo V6 era for the Enstone team, Lotus has finally taken delivery of the improved Renault 'power unit' as used by Red Bull and Toro Rosso in Bahrain.
Italy's Autosprint said Lotus was unable to use the unit two weeks ago due to "other technical difficulties" with the troubled E22 car.
Lotus is planning even more significant improvements for the start of the European season in Barcelona next month, but team driver Romain Grosjean is cautious.
"In F1 there are no miracles, only work," the Frenchman is quoted by RMC Sport in Shanghai.
"We will not be on pole in Barcelona: maybe we will be better, maybe we will take a more important step than we would at other times," he added.
Also marching forward after the depth of Renault's winter crisis is reigning world champion team Red Bull, who according to Autosprint have been taking delivery of box after box of new parts in the Shanghai paddock.
Sebastian Vettel, however, expects Mercedes to still be clearly ahead in China.
"Certainly it would be a huge surprise if we have already closed a gap of about one second per lap," said the world champion. "It's better to be realistic, and realistically we can be in the top five."
And after four consecutive world titles, Red Bull's pace is not German Vettel's only problem. The other is sitting at the wheel of the sister RB10.
"I'm happy for him," Vettel, referring to his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo who according to some has had the performance edge so far in 2014, said.
"It's nice to see that he is pushing to the maximum and it's always good to have a reference," he added.
Formula 1 drivers seek pay issue solutions but rule out strike
Formula 1 drivers are in talks to find a collective way to resolve pay disputes with teams, but will not strike over the issue.
Kimi Raikkonen left Lotus for Ferrari last season following a feud over unpaid wages, while Force India's Nico Hulkenberg encountered problems with his former team Sauber last season.
Hulkenberg said the Grand Prix Drivers' Association had debated the issue, which AUTOSPORT understands has affected some other drivers too, but stopped short of threatening strike action over unpaid wages.
"It's something that's not good for the pinnacle of motor racing but we've never discussed doing a strike," said Hulkenberg.
"I don't know [what the options are], but we all need to stick the heads together to see what we can do and come up with a solution.
"We want the issue to be addressed."
"That's way too much talk," said Jenson Button when asked by AUTOSPORT about the prospect of a strike.
"We all love the sport and we won't do anything to hurt the sport."
Fellow GPDA member Jules Bianchi told AUTOSPORT it is worth drivers looking at the issue despite its sensitivities.
"I am getting paid, but some people are struggling with that and we want to know what we could do to improve that," the Marussia driver told AUTOSPORT.
"Obviously it's very difficult as there's not really a solution. What can you do? It's really sensitive and it's getting really tough for the drivers who are not getting paid.
"Some teams are struggling with money but it should not happen. We are talking about drivers, but also people working at the factory.
"It's not only for us we want it to be fair for everyone."
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean said he had suffered his own problem with unpaid wages, but confirmed the issue was now resolved with his team.
"Since the new management is in place everything is sorted and it's good," he said.
"It was certainly not where we wanted things to go, [but] I never opened my mouth because it was my own business.
"I don't do Formula 1 for the money, but I have to say at some stage I was worried for my rent." More at Autosport.com
Alonso's reaction to Marco Mattiacci betrays Ferrari's turmoil
Ferrari the biggest team in Formula One, still appeared to be in disarray on Thursday, ahead of their first grand prix since replacing the team principal, Stefano Domenicali, with Marco Mattiacci, a successful car salesman but someone with no background in the sport.
Their star driver, Fernando Alonso, was brought to the team of the prancing horse by Domenicali, who has since become a close friend. The Spaniard sounded less than enthusiastic about the appointment of Mattiacci when he said that he needed time to assess whether the change in management would prove a success. "It's obviously too early to say whether he will be very good, or very bad," Alonso remarked.
Meanwhile his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen said "everyone is a bit surprised" by the move, and the Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, hinted that he would really be running the team when he promised to be more involved in order to help Mattiacci, the former president and CEO of Ferrari North America.
Alonso said that he had not even talked to Mattiacci. "I didn't have a chance. I don't know if he is coming here [China], I guess so," he said. "It will be a good time to welcome him and I have really not much to say.
"I drive the car and hopefully he will be good enough to recognize what are the weak areas of the team, what are the strong areas of the team, and hopefully can improve them. We need to give him time, to see how he settles."
Ferrari have failed to win a single podium place in the first three races of the season. "I think we need to be honest with our situation – it's not where we want to be," admitted Alonso with a shrug. "I think there is a lot of room to improve. We need to become better in all the areas of the car. There is a long way to go."
Alonso was echoing the sentiments of Raikkonen who, when asked in Bahrain earlier this month what was wrong with the Ferrari car, replied: "Everything."
That is the problem with Ferrari. There is most room for improvement when it comes to their thirsty power unit but nor are they where they want to be with their chassis or their aerodynamics. And not even the presence of two world championship drivers in their team can cover over the many cracks.
In six years in charge, Domenicali won just one trophy; the constructors' title in 2008. Alonso, making the most of a moderate car, went close to winning the drivers' championship in 2010 and 2012 but lost out to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on both occasions. Last year Red Bull completely dominated both championships as Ferrari suffered from a lack of in-season development. A frustrated Di Montezemolo subsequently described himself as "tired" of his team's failure to win a world title.
Ferrari brought in the highly rated Lotus technical director James Allison in 2013, but that was in the second half of the season and Allison's fingerprints will not really appear on the car until 2015. Encouragingly, the team looked solid in pre-season testing, but it is another works team, Mercedes, who have made all the running in the early races.
Di Montezemolo clearly will be more hands-on in future. "I will help him [Mattiacci]," said the president. "I will do like I did in the past. I will stay closer, I'll spend more time on it.
"The first person at being not satisfied at the moment is me, but don't worry, I'm putting myself on the line. Mattiacci is the right choice, we'll get back to winning ways very soon."
He added: "I've decided to go for a young manager I strongly believe in, and on a person from the Ferrari family, thus avoiding me going around the world looking for some mercenary. Let's look ahead. We all must roll up our sleeves in order to be competitive again."
But Alonso, who angered the team with his critical comments last year, sounds as if he would be much happier with Domenicali still in charge. He said here on Thursday: "Stefano is a great man. We ski together on the first of January in the mountains in Italy and we still have a close relationship. We've been talking all week long, which will continue because we've known each other for many years.
"As a team principal he made good choices, did good things. Unfortunately we missed opportunities in 2010 and 2012, and another in 2008 with Felipe [Massa]. Otherwise he could have had three championships in his pocket." The Guardian
German minister jailed over failed Formula 1 Nurburgring sale
A former state finance minister in Germany has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for embezzling funds during the failed sale of the Nurburgring.
Ingolf Deubel was found guilty of 14 counts of embezzlement after the state funded improvement works at the track, which currently hosts alternating German Grands Prix on the Formula 1 calendar.
The track received €330m (£271.5m) from the Rheinland-Pflaz state government in 2012 before being put up for sale the following year.
Deubel was accused of embezzling several hundred of thousand of Euros as well as risking millions of taxpayers' money, but maintained his innocence throughout the 18-month trial.
Marco Mattiacci on leading Ferrari: 'I come with a lot of humility'
|Marco Mattiacci in the Ferrari pits in Shanghai|
New Ferrari boss Marco Mattiacci says the opportunity to take over as head of the F1 team came out of the blue in a phone call from Luca di Montezemolo last week – some 72 hours before the news of his appointment was officially confirmed.
The erstwhile Ferrari North America boss was in New York when his boss rang.
"I received a call at 5.58am on Friday morning," he said. "It was the chairman Montezemolo on the phone, and he told me this is my idea. And I thought that April Fools was already far away, it was 15 days later! Then after the second or third minute of discussion I understood that it was serious. I understood because there was already a ticket ready to go from New York, to Milan, after three hours. I arrived Saturday morning at Maranello, at the Fiorano track."
Mattiacci said he spent some time talking with the departing Stefano Domenicali.
"Stefano is a great person, he's a friend of mine. We spent Saturday, a few hours, Monday, we spent the entire day together. He is a person that I have the utmost respect [for], first as a human being, second as a professional. So it was natural for us to discuss the role."
He insisted that running the F1 team had not been on his horizons: "I never had an agenda about what I want to be. I always worked extremely hard to be prepared for whatever chance was offered to me in any environment. That’s the beauty of life. I don’t think you can control or plan too much. I think you need to be prepared."
Mattiacci said it was premature to say if there would any restructuring.
"It’s too early for me to make such statements. What I know is that I worked in Ferrari since 14 years, I’ve been the last four days in Maranello, in the Gestione Sportiva. We have an amazing group of talented people. I think we have a history, a pedigree that is unique, a pride that is impressive.
"To talk about restructuring is too early. Definitely we are here, I’m here. Mr. Montezemolo is extremely focused on giving any kind of support to the team, and if needed, to go on the market, but clearly to go in the market if you really believe there’s going to be another value, an impact, to this team. That’s at the moment what I know."
He also made it clear that he feels his business background is beneficial.
"In the last 20 years I have assembled a lot of teams, I’ve benchmarked a lot of business structures, and as I told you this is a different perspective. Probably not in terms of a sporting team, but definitely assembling teams, working with people, managing people from different nationalities, with diversity, diversity in the industry, diversity in nationalities. I will try to bring, if I have [them], some best practices from there. But definitely this is a very specific culture, I’m aware of that. Time of reaction is completely different, you need to do things that happened yesterday, not in two months, like in corporate.
"I come with a lot humility, to understand and work very hard, this is what I can commit to the team, to the drivers, that are the best drivers in the world. I’m an extremely humble person that will listen and will fight 150% to be a facilitator to utilize the best talent that is within Ferrari."
Asked about his role in improving Ferrari’s form he said: “I’m not an engineer but we have 800 people that are working to make the car faster, and as I said the best talented engineers. For me it’s to get the highest motivation possible, and to define a certain project management. It’s not me that’s going to give one extra second to the car, it’s the engineers who work for us." Adam Cooper
Tired Mattiacci says Ferrari not giving up
(GMM) Marco Mattiacci wore sunglasses all day in cloudy, smoggy Shanghai.
"I have not slept in the last 40 hours," explained Ferrari's brand new team boss, who is mere days into his shock new tenure in the wake of Stefano Domenicali's exit.
The second the 43-year-old first stepped into the Shanghai paddock on Friday, a swarm of photographers never left his side.
The anticipation of Mattiacci's first words to the press were so highly anticipated because - running Ferrari North America aside - he is totally unknown.
"I like motor sports and have spent about 20 days at race tracks," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
"Three times I have seen the 24 hours of Daytona. But, of course, that is not formula one."
Indeed it is not, but Mattiacci insists he can bring "new perspectives" to arguably the highest-pressure job at the pinnacle of motor racing.
He has been on the Ferrari payroll for 14 years, as president Luca di Montezemolo said during the week that he preferred promoting from within rather than headhunting a "mercenary" like Ross Brawn.
But his experience at Maranello's fabled Gestione Sportiva can now be counted in the mere dozens of hours.
The first phone call was on Monday.
"I was in New York when I got the call from Luca di Montezemolo at 5.58," Mattiacci smiled. "At first I thought it was a joke.
"Afterwards I flew to Milan where I had three meetings. My predecessor Domenicali was there as well."
Admitting his surprise at landing the top job in red aside, the main message of Mattiacci's first meeting with the press on Friday was to deny reports and rumors that Ferrari is already preparing to write off the 2014 title.
"We do not give up," he insisted. "The world title must remain the goal.
"Ferrari has many talented people, the budget, good tools, pride and a great history.
"The aim must be to bridge the gap to Mercedes as soon as possible. It is going to be a very difficult task."
Maldonado admits responsibility
Pastor Maldonado admits that crash that ended his running in Shanghai on Friday was entirely his fault.
Maldonado had an eventful start to his Chinese GP weekend as he struggled to stay on the track.
It was an auspicious start for the Venezuelan who went off and spun on his very first lap when he was adjusting the dials on his steering wheel and not paying attention to the road.
A few spins and offs later, it ended in FP2 when he crashed his E22 into the wall at the entrance to the pits.
"I crashed, sorry," said it all.
He later admitted the accident it was completely his fault.
"I made a mistake on the entry of the pit," he told Autosport.
As for his spin at the start of FP1, Maldonado said: "Too much to do on the outlaps. After the outlaps it's OK."
But despite his many moments, the Lotus driver believes his team has taken a step forward this weekend.
He said: "It's clear there is an improvement, not only from our side but also from the engine side.
"The car is better than in the previous race. I don't know how much, but we are quite confident.
"We had a lot of problems with drivability, especially exiting the corners, and now it's more clean.
"It's not that we changed many things in the car, it's that everything is working a bit better."
Maldonado will start Sunday's Chinese GP five places behind where he qualifies as he arrived in Shanghai with a penalty for crashing into Esteban Gutierrez at the previous race in Bahrain. Planet F1
Alonso encouraged by Ferrari updates
Fernando Alonso says that he is encouraged by the upgrades which Ferrari has applied to the F14 T ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
Alonso, who topped the first practice session, was second fastest overall on Friday, just over a tenth of a second slower than Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
"All Fridays are the same, a day when you especially need to test the tires to adapt to the circuit and on this front, maybe it was less useful than usual, because the forecast for tomorrow suggests rain is on the way," he said.
"We have brought some small updates here, which we already tried at the Bahrain test. Everything worked well and that's good news. Leaving aside the performance of the others, I am happy with what we have done today. At every race, all the teams bring something new and we must try and make an additional step forward if we want to be competitive. This track is particularly tough on tires, with the Softs especially suffering from graining over a long run, so it will be important to work out the tire plan for Sunday."
Kimi Raikkonen endured a less positive day as problems with his F14 T curtailed his running in the first session after just a solitary exploration lap. The Finn recovered to seventh place.
"In the afternoon, we tried to make up for lost time, concentrating mainly on getting the set-up suited to this track, sacrificing some of our race simulation," he said. "It's difficult to give an overall assessment and I definitely missed out a bit because of the lack of track time.