Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

06/25/14

  • Will latest Gribkowsky evidence be enough to put Ecclestone behind bars?

    Horner adds denial to 'Red Bull engine' claims

  • Horner backs embattled Vettel to 'come back'
  • Gribkowsky told German intelligence of Ecclestone threats
  • Stolen file is 'summary of Schumacher's condition'
  • Sirotkin says de Silvestro role 'a marketing ploy'
  • Prodromou to start at McLaren in September
  • Villeneuve: Vettel finished at Red Bull New
  • Q&A with Stefano Domenicali New

Horner adds denial to 'Red Bull engine' claims
(GMM) Christian Horner has added his denial to reports Red Bull could end its F1 engine crisis by building its own turbo V6.

Amid the reigning world champions' obvious frustration with Renault in 2014, the story of a 'Red Bull engine' intensified when Dr Helmut Marko admitted last week that it was a possibility.

But team owner Dietrich Mateschitz this week issued a clear denial.

Boss Horner now follows suit.

"Red Bull is a chassis manufacturer and we have no ambition to become an engine manufacturer," he told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

However, the rumors are not likely to stop there. Despite Red Bull's 2016 contract, the team is not committing to running French power beyond next year.

And off the back of the very latest reports that Renault could sell its F1 facility at Viry and pull out of the sport, the new rumor is that Lotus could be considering a switch to Mercedes power for 2015.

For his part, Horner said Red Bull is pressing ahead with Renault for now.

"We have had meetings to discuss what needs to happen. At the moment there is a big difference — Mercedes have done a great job," he said.

He said the basic problem is the interaction between Renault's combustion engine and the energy recovery systems.

"It is not working harmoniously," said Horner. "The fact is that it is not easy to recognize any progress.

"They have improved a little, but we need to know what they want to achieve.

"You have to pay Mercedes a big compliment and say they have done a great job. They started early and invested wisely," he added.

Horner backs embattled Vettel to 'come back'
(GMM) Christian Horner has backed Sebastian Vettel, amid suggestions the four time world champion could be losing the support of the Red Bull team.

Typically-forthright 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve this week said he thinks that, amid Vettel's struggle to keep up with new teammate Daniel Ricciardo this year, "Red Bull is treating him like they treated Mark Webber".

"Now they want to 'kill' Sebastian because he's not right for the Red Bull image," said the French Canadian, amid rumors McLaren has made an early approach to Vettel.

But Red Bull boss Horner has tipped the team's reigning four-time world champion to bounce back, essentially blaming the bulk of the 26-year-old's struggles on "bad luck".

"Sebastian has had an incredible amount of bad luck this year," he told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV. "Three times he's failed to finish but he's had many more technical problems than that."

Despite Vettel's struggle simply for a functioning car, Horner says the German is dealing with the situation "incredibly well".

"Many other drivers would have their heads down, their motivation would be gone. Not him. He works harder and pushes the team even more," he added.

"When the tide turns, the results will come back," said Horner.

According to F1 legend Niki Lauda, however, a major element to the Red Bull situation in 2014 has been Daniel Ricciardo, who surprised the entire paddock with his rapid rise among the very best drivers in formula one today.

"He is a massive talent that has reached a very high level in a very short period of time," said the triple world champion, who is Red Bull rival Mercedes' team chairman.

"He has everything it takes to be a world champion in the future," added Lauda.

Gribkowsky told German intelligence of Ecclestone threats
(GMM) Gerhard Gribkowsky contacted the BND, Germany's foreign intelligence agency or Bundesnachrichtendienst, when he claimed Bernie Ecclestone was threatening him.

That is the latest bombshell to emerge this week from F1 chief executive Ecclestone's bribery trial in Munich.

According to German reports, the details were presented to the court by the 83-year-old Briton's lawyers, as jailed Gribkowsky's credibility continues to come under attack.

Ecclestone faces the loss of his job in F1 and even jail as prosecutors try to prove he bribed Gribkowsky to the tune of $44 million over the sale of the sport's commercial rights some years ago.

Ecclestone's defense is that the payment was in fact hush money because Gribkowsky was threatening to make allegations to the British authorities about his personal tax affairs.

But as it emerged in court on Tuesday, it was Gribkowsky who was alleging that Ecclestone posed the real threat.

Written documents show that Gribkowsky, then chief risk officer at former F1 shareholder and state Munich bank BayernLB, asked his secretary to contact the head of the intelligence agency BND.

Gribkowsky reportedly alleged suspicious observations while jogging, and mysterious knocks at his door, which he also reported to police in late 2004, claiming it was linked to pressure being applied by Ecclestone around the time of the F1 rights sale.

A witness testified on Tuesday: "I thought it was telling that he (Gribkowsky) spoke about it (the alleged Ecclestone threat) so often."

Stolen file is 'summary of Schumacher's condition'
(GMM) The hospital in Grenoble where Michael Schumacher lay in coma for almost six months reported medical documents about the F1 legend's condition stolen, it has emerged.

Earlier, the former Ferrari and Mercedes driver's management urged media outlets not to buy or publish the medical file that is on the market for a reported EUR 50,000.

The German journalists association, or Deutsche Journalisten-Verband, is also warning against the publication of the information, arguing it is "without substance and relevance".

"The contents of this file has neither political nor social significance and would be a completely unacceptable and very serious interference with the personal rights of Michael Schumacher," chief Michael Konken added.

Germany's Welt newspaper now reports that the university hospital in Grenoble reported to police the theft and breach of patient confidentiality last Thursday.

Days earlier, Schumacher, 45, had been transferred by ambulance from intensive care at Grenoble to a rehabilitation hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The French news agency AFP has further details. It claims the 'medical file' is in fact a multiple-page doctor's summary of Schumacher's case copied from the hospital's computer system.

The report said the hospital is not sure whether an employee stole the dossier or if it had been the victim of 'hackers'.

"An individual, communicating by email, is asking for 60,000 Swiss francs to provide a document of several dozen pages that summarizes everything that happened at Grenoble during Schumacher's hospitalization," local prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat said.

Hospital director Jacqueline Hubert told Bild newspaper that employees of the hospital with potential access to the file have been interviewed by police.

"This is a limited number of people," she said. "Michael Schumacher's information was saved under a false name in the system."

Meanwhile, the hospital currently treating Schumacher in Lausanne insists it is taking all measures to protect the former F1 driver's privacy.

"We have the highest standards for all of our patients," spokesman Darcy Christen told Welt. "Our data is protected by a very secure system."

Sirotkin says de Silvestro role 'a marketing ploy'
(GMM) Sergey Sirotkin has denied his future at Sauber is being overshadowed by the Swiss female driver Simona de Silvestro.

Funded by her wealthy backers, de Silvestro – who also ran at Fiorano in April – returned to track action this week in a 2012 Sauber at the Valencia circuit, Spain's El Mundo Deportivo reports.

But, earlier, Russian teen Sirotkin seemed more destined for Sauber's affections, closely aligned with the reported 'Russian rescue deal' that last year reportedly rescued the then ailing Hinwil based team.

Since then, however, Sirotkin's involvement went decidedly quiet.

In fact, it is now rumored that Sauber's savior was in fact not Sirotkin's backers, but Bernie Ecclestone, who stepped in and paid all of the team's outstanding debts.

"I cannot do it and I would not do it," the F1 chief executive said in a firm denial to the Swiss newspaper Blick.

At the same time, Sirotkin has admitted he is currently much more focused on his seat in the Formula Renault 3.5 series.

"I have always said that I was giving priority to nothing that could complicate my task or hinder my performance in this championship," he told the Russian website f1news.ru.

"This may give the impression of a lull, but in fact I am in constant contact with the team (Sauber)," Sirotkin insisted.

"Some steps have already been decided, and others I cannot speak about until Sauber makes a statement. In any case, it makes no sense to talk about it because I am fully engaged in the World Series."

Sirotkin's participation in Friday practice before his home Russian grand prix was earlier believed to be part of his 2014 program, but now the driver is not so sure.

"Actually I was supposed to participate in free practice not only in Sochi," he said. "It's an open question.

"Obviously, in terms of marketing, public interest and so on, the logical thing would be Sochi, but I cannot say yet whether it will happen in Sochi or somewhere else."

And what about de Silvestro? While the Sirotkin story has gone quiet, de Silvestro is actively testing, giving the impression Sauber's priorities have moved on.

Sirotkin insisted: "Sauber have a third driver, Giedo van der Garde, there is a test pilot, me, and a mentored driver (de Silvestro), who they are trying to help to reach the level of formula one."

Referring to de Silvestro's program, Sirotkin added: "In my opinion, this is more of a marketing ploy, so I don't think I need to be afraid of it.

"Let's see what will happen next."

Prodromou to start at McLaren in September
(GMM) Red Bull aerodynamics chief Peter Prodromou will start work at McLaren in September, Ron Dennis has announced.

The Woking based team signed the highly rated Prodromou late last year, but at the time Red Bull was insisting his full contract be served to the last day.

But as he spoke optimistically about the future amid McLaren's current competitive slump, Dennis said this week: "We've got Peter Prodromou joining us in September so that will be a big step.

"It will bolster our revitalized aero team, so I'm not concerned about aero performance next year. It will come right."

It is believed Prodromou's early arrival is linked with a recent dispute between McLaren and Red Bull.

Dennis was threatening to take the reigning champions to court after signing a Prodromou deputy, Dan Fallows, only to find he had changed his mind and returned to Red Bull.

But two weeks ago, it emerged that out-of-court talks had settled the dispute.

Reports suggested a non-financial settlement was reached, possibly involving Red Bull's early release to McLaren of Prodromou, who is currently on 'gardening leave'.

Prodromou, who before joining Red Bull in 2006 spent his entire professional life at McLaren, is not the only reason Dennis is optimistic about the future.

In 2015, the team's new works Honda era begins.

"We've got a steep curve," Dennis said, "but at the end of the day we were with them for five years and won 50 per cent of the races.

"So I'm not worried about getting there with Honda, it's just going to be a bit challenging at the beginning.

"This is motor racing," he insisted, "it goes up and down, you've just got to keep your head down and keep working."

Villeneuve: Vettel finished at Red Bull
1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve thinks Sebastian Vettel is 'finished at Red Bull' and should switch teams next season.

Vettel took his fourth F1 Drivers' title in succession last year with the Milton Keynes-based squad, but has struggled to adapt to the new regulations this year. In contrast, Daniel Ricciardo has come in after Mark Webber retired and has been very impressive, often outperforming his illustrious team-mate, as he did again in Austria last weekend, Red Bull's home event.

"Sebastian is a four-time World Champion who has earned the titles won, but now Red Bull Racing is treating him like they were Mark Webber. They seem to have decided to focus only on Daniel Ricciardo. Now they want to 'kill' Sebastian because the German is not able to give another image of Red Bull," Villeneuve told OmniCorse.it.

"Of course he cannot stand one more season [like this]," added the Canadian. "[Red Bull adviser] Helmut Marko has also now started to criticize him. When you lose control of the team and the policy begins to have an ever-increasing weight, you are finished.

"They are always looking for something new and are now dedicated to Ricciardo. Vettel is finished there and needs to change teams."

Villeneuve also noted that it is not beyond the realms of possibilities in his view that Vettel could end up at Ferrari in 2015 and he thinks the Scuderia are on the up.

"Who said the door is closed at Ferrari?" Villeneuve asked.

"I think that Fernando [Alonso] is tired of working for nothing and it shows that he no longer has the same joy of driving like he did two years ago. He carried the team on his shoulders. But last year he gave up. He no longer has the strength to drag the team alone.

"You can see that it is starting to work now though with [Technical Director] James Allison there. At Lotus he made interesting cars without having a driver that could push developments. Only now are we starting to see the fruits of his labor and that could motivate the drivers'.

"I think that next year we will see Ferrari in recovery – and if Fernando has the patience to wait he could reap the benefits…"

Q&A with Stefano Domenicali
Breaking cover for the first time since his departure from Ferrari, Stefano Domenicali is taking part in the FIA's Sport Conference in Munich.

The Italian, who left Ferrari on April 14, appeared on a panel that discussed how motorsport can adapt and grow in an ever changing environment.

This Q&A appeared in the FIA's newsletter at the conclusion of the first day of the three day conference.

What do you think will be the major influences on the growth of motor sport in the coming years?
First of all we need to talk about an incredibly large base of license holders, support networks, teams, manufacturers and fans, so it would be wrong to say there is only one thing to do – it would be to look at only one part of the motor sport cake.

We are talking about a thing that connects different people of different ages and cultures. You have older people who want to simply go racing and enjoy it and then younger people who want to enjoy a different experience. You have manufacturers who have marketing and technical interests and teams who generally have an interest in pure racing. You have to keep developing for all these different communities.

For sure the biggest thing is developing the sport for younger generations. Young people are not attracted by new technology as a word, they have to be connected by technology to the sport. They have to be involved. There are young people who want to be the driver but via connectivity – it's about being part of it yourself.

How do you see youth appeal being developed? Do you believe it needs a centralized effort?
We need to have a strategy. We need to be integrated with the stakeholders promoting all of the different categories. Without an integrated communication plan we will be disconnected. this week will be important in getting all of those stakeholders together, in finding out what each one is dealing with and hopefully then they can formulate a plan and choose the main route to follow. It's important to act quickly.

Is attracting new fans as simple as inviting the public to free driving days; to give them a taste of racing?
That's important for those want to be in the show but we also need to appeal to people who are purely sports fans and who want to challenge the professional or the champion through games or interactive experiences. one thing I learned from looking at the American market, in different disciplines, is that fans want to be the one challenging the most important player in basketball or whatever. fans want to be the protagonist. If we can provide that it will help our entire movement to be connected to fans.

For young people who want to get involved as drivers it has to be affordable, otherwise it is impossible. Here there is a dichotomy. New technology at the beginning is expensive. We need to find a balance. if we are too aggressive on new technology we run the risk of losing the passion of motor sport. We need to balance it carefully.

Has the current Formula One season developed in the way you imagined?
In a way, yes. As I said last year, it was clear that the teams that were strong at the beginning would keep that advantage for the season because with such a step change in technology…Mercedes have done a great job and they will keep this advantage for a long time. to close the gap in a situation where the regulation is more or less frozen is very difficult. I hope the others will be able to close the gap soon, though, because at this stage you need to have races that are emotionally engaging. if you lose the passion it wouldn't be good.

What about your own plans for the future? What are you up to?
So far, I'm taking a breath. After 23 years of non-stop work it seems I have a bit of time now, so I'm taking the opportunity to be with my family, which has to be good. Yes, really good.

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