Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Kobayashi turned down a paid driver position for the Ferrari GT team to drive for free with a back of the grid F1 team

    McLaren 'in good shape' despite no title sponsor

  • 'Role model' Zanardi returns to racing
  • Sirotkin's place at Sauber now in doubt
  • Hulkenberg hopes 2014 cars not too slow
  • Kobayashi racing for free in F1 return
  • Van der Garde says he turned down Caterham
  • Di Resta admits Mercedes F1 role possible
  • Jan Magnussen could quit racing to support son
  • New York judge dismisses Ecclestone case
  • It is too early to diagnose Schumacher as being in a permanent vegetative state
  • Tamara Ecclestone loses High Court battle with ex-boyfriend

McLaren 'in good shape' despite no title sponsor
(GMM) McLaren has confirmed it will not announce a replacement for departed title sponsor Vodafone when the 2014 car is officially launched on Friday.

But after the final season of Vodafone's backing passed without a win or even a podium for the great British team, managing director Jonathan Neale insisted McLaren remains in good financial health for 2014.

"We're in good shape financially," he told GMM exclusively, "and we have a lot of fantastic partners — Mobil 1, Santander, GSK, Johnnie Walker, Hilton, Hugo Boss, Tag Heuer and SAP and quite a few more."

Neale pointed out that because McLaren is not a PLC, it does not have to "show a profit".

"Our shareholders, Ron Dennis, Tag and Mumtalakat, never take a dividend," said Neale. "No, they're motivated by the desire to see McLaren grow and grow again.

"So, yes, I can confirm that McLaren will have a bigger operational budget in 2014 than we've had in any previous year," he added.

However, McLaren is in a period of great change, and not just because Honda is arriving as the works engine partner in 2015.

McLaren supremo Dennis is also back in charge, amid speculation Martin Whitmarsh's days as team principal are over.

Claiming that Ross Brawn or Sam Michael could be set to take the reins, Speed Week reports that Whitmarsh will not be at the Jerez test next week.

And Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reports that Ciaron Pilbeam, once Mark Webber's race engineer at Red Bull, has been poached by McLaren from Lotus to be chief race engineer "in the wake of their disastrous 2013 campaign".

'Role model' Zanardi returns to racing
(GMM) Alex Zanardi will be back under engine power in 2014.

In 2004, three years after losing his legs in a horror Champ Car crash, the former F1 driver defied the odds by racing full-time for BMW in the European touring car championship.

But he then turned to hand cycling, soaring to the top of that sport with gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic games in London.

Now, at the age of 47, Zanardi – who last raced in F1 in 1999 with Williams – is returning to four wheels once again.

He has been signed to drive a modified BMW in the Blancpain Sprint Series.

"Even after leaving the sport in 2009, I was still a racing driver at heart," said Zanardi.

BMW motor sport chief Jens Marquardt said: "From both a human and a sporting aspect, Alex is a role model to all of us."

Sirotkin's place at Sauber now in doubt
(GMM) Sergey Sirotkin's place inside the Sauber team has been called into doubt.

Just before Christmas, although initially in the Swiss team's racing plans for 2014, Sauber said Russian teen Sirotkin would only be "its test driver" this season.

But with news of the related Russian rescue deal having gone silent, it surprised some observers this week when Sauber said the McGregor-sponsored Dutchman Giedo van der Garde would in fact be "its test and reserve driver" in 2014.

The statement made no mention at all of Sirotkin.

"What happens now with Sirotkin?" Roger Benoit, the veteran F1 correspondent for the well-connected Swiss newspaper Blick, wondered.

"Where is there room now for Sergey Sirotkin?" agreed Mathias Brunner, a writer for German language Speed Week.

Sauber has been contacted for comment.

Hulkenberg hopes 2014 cars not too slow
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg hopes the cars of F1's all-new era are not too slow.

At the end of the long V12 and V10-powered era of normally aspirated power, the sport is switching to 'greener' V6 turbo engines from 2014, bolstered by sophisticated energy recovery systems.

But some fear the cars, at least in 2014, will be three or four seconds slower than the field of 2013, bringing them within the range of the support series GP2.

Asked if that kind of performance would be a disappointment, German Hulkenberg admitted: "It would be a step in the wrong direction.

"Formula one must remain the ultimate," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"If we lose four seconds, then the GP2 cars would be very close to formula one, and the difference between them is no longer clear enough."

But Hulkenberg, who drove for Sauber in 2013, admits he doesn't have much data to base his fears upon, as he has not tried a 2014 car in Force India's simulator.

"Force India does have a simulator," he said, "but the software and the models are not yet for 2014 and so it makes no sense to try to test it.

"We are in a wait and see period," Hulkenberg added.

He has, however, at least seen Force India's new car, the VJM07, and is not sure what to think of it.

"Naturally the narrow front wing and the distinctive nose looks a bit strange to the eye," said the 26-year-old. "Not so pretty."

And once linked with moves to Ferrari, McLaren or Lotus for 2014, Hulkenberg admits that the bigger teams could have an advantage over their smaller rivals this year.

"It is more open than in previous years," he said.

"The big teams with their big budgets have an advantage with how quickly they can develop.

"But the new rules are also a chance for smaller teams to come up with something better than the rest — you only have to think about 2009 and Brawn GP.

"On the other hand you can also get it wrong as well, so it could go either way," Hulkenberg concluded.

Kobayashi racing for free in F1 return
(GMM) In a last-ditch effort to move up the grid, Caterham overlooked some of the most lucrative 'pay drivers' for the 2014 season.

Although his fans pledged their own money towards his return to F1, the popular and feisty Kamui Kobayashi admitted he is only contributing a modest amount – less than $2 million – to the Tony Fernandes-led team's budget.

"Unfortunately it is not enough to get a seat," the Japanese told Britain's Sky, "but hopefully this is a good indication and a message to Tony Fernandes".

And also in contrast to his main race seat rival Heikki Kovalainen, who needed to be paid a salary in 2014, Kobayashi revealed that he will be driving for nothing this year.

That is despite the fact Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali offered him a new deal to race GT sports cars in 2014, where he would have been paid real money.

"Stefano is not happy I didn't take it," Kobayashi smiled, "but it (racing for free) is my decision, my approach and this appeals to Tony, this was my message to Tony."

Indeed, Fernandes said that while the contribution of Kobayashi's fans is appreciated, the less than $2 million offering "makes no difference" in the context of massive F1 budgets.

It is those massive budgets, and a lack of success so far, that have Air Asia chief Fernandes' patience almost at an end for formula one.

Frustrated by the uphill battle to level the playing field in pitlane, he admitted that 2014 could be Caterham's last roll of the dice.

"If we're at the back again I don't think I'm going to carry on," he said during a media day at the team's Leafield base.

"Nothing is set in stone, but after five years with no points there is a limit to one's patience, money, motivation, so it's an important year," added Fernandes.

Another example of Caterham's final push is that it is moving its wind tunnel program this year into the state-of-the-art Toyota facility in Cologne, as also used by Ferrari.

Van der Garde says he turned down Caterham
(GMM) Giedo van der Garde claims he turned down the chance to stay at Caterham this year in order to "move sideways" to Sauber.

Just a year into his grand prix career, the Dutchman will not even be on the 2014 grid, but serving only as Sauber's reserve and occasional Friday driver.

Well backed by his father in law Marcel Boekhoorn's McGregor brand, he told De Telegraaf newspaper that he turned Caterham down.

"I liken it to Jasper Cillissen," van der Garde said, referring to a Dutch goalkeeper who gambled on a transfer between football teams, sat on the bench for a year but ultimately went on to great success.

De Telegraaf said van der Garde was offered the race seat at Caterham for 2014.

"I didn't do it," the 28-year-old confirmed, "because this is a better option.

"My goal this year is to show what I can do and race for Sauber in 2015. I'm a driver who wants the maximum possible, not to race around at the back."

Van der Garde said he is happy with his 2014 program.

"It looks good," he said. "There are more test days this year and I can do some of the Friday free practices.

"And if it is necessary, I am ready to race."

Di Resta admits Mercedes F1 role possible
(GMM) Paul di Resta has admitted his aim is to combine his return to DTM this year with a role in formula one.

Having lost his Force India seat, Scot di Resta, 27, is returning to the German touring car series with Mercedes, for whom he won the 2010 title.

And although the media announcement made no mention of F1, authoritative reports suggested it is likely he will be called up as a test and reserve driver for the German carmaker's works Brackley based team.

"Everyone knows I didn't leave F1 because I didn't perform," he is quoted by The Scotsman newspaper. "There were other issues.

"If the opportunity comes up, I'm still young enough that I can get back in there. Racing in the DTM makes sense and it lets me combine something with F1 and keep my foot in the door should something come up," di Resta added.

Importantly, none of the ten races on the DTM calendar this year clash with F1's 19 grands prix, meaning di Resta would in theory be able to seamlessly combine the two roles.

"First, though, I need to concentrate on DTM," he insisted.

"Once we get this rolling the way we want, then we'll explore whatever other opportunities are on the table.

"Do I feel my F1 career is over? No, definitely not," di Resta continued.

"As is the case with any championship, I am now fully committed to winning the DTM title again with Mercedes.

"But they also know I want to remain in the F1 paddock. They are well aware of the fact that's where I want to be, and I know I have their full support. That's hugely important for me," he concluded.

Jan Magnussen could quit racing to support son
(GMM) Former F1 driver Jan Magnussen has revealed he is considering ending his own career in order to support his son's move into motor sport's highest category.

Although his own grand prix career flopped in the late 90s when he was sacked by then team owner Sir Jackie Stewart, the 40-year-old Dane still races sports cars, and is a perennial contender at fabled Le Mans.

But now his 21-year-old son is moving into F1 with the British grandee McLaren, who gave the then chaotic Jan Magnussen a one-off F1 drive back in 1995.

He is keen for Kevin to avoid his mistakes.

"I wish I'd had another chance," Jan told the Guardian, "but Kevin is where he is today because of what happened to me.

"In fact there are no similarities," Magnussen explained. "He's super hardworking and much more organized than I ever was.

"I was a smoker, I didn't train properly and was not at all organized."

Magnussen Snr will not be in Melbourne for his son's grand prix debut in March, because it clashes with his own driving duties.

"But I will get to eight or nine races, about half," he said.

"Now Kevin is in formula one I've thought a lot about how long my career will go on. I've got to decide whether I can focus on what I'm doing or whether I'd rather be with Kevin.

"But I don't want to be his manager. I want to be his dad, and that's it.

"Kevin used to be the son of Jan Magnussen," he smiled. "Now, suddenly, I am the father of Kevin Magnussen."

New York judge dismisses Ecclestone case
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone's legal woes have eased slightly, as it emerges a $650 lawsuit against him has been dismissed.

Late last year, a company called Bluewaters Communications claimed it was the high bidder to buy formula one in 2005.

But it said CVC only won the day because of chief executive Ecclestone's alleged bribes, after Bluewaters gave "no commitment" to keep the 83-year-old in his top job.

F1 business journalist Christian Sylt now reports that the New York supreme court has ruled that it has no jurisdiction to hear the case.

According to Autoweek, the Justice ruled that the "critical events underlying the claims in this lawsuit took place in Germany, England and elsewhere in Europe".

Although still in charge of F1, Ecclestone has stepped down from the board and is facing jail after German prosecutors said the corruption affair would be heard in criminal court this year.

It is too early to diagnose Schumacher as being in a permanent vegetative state
Consultant Neurosurgeon Colin Shieff says, however, that it is correct for doctors to warn the F1 legend's family of potential Apallic Syndrome Apallic Syndrome is a diagnosis that cannot be verified until many months have passed after the initial trauma, which could be a brain injury, stroke or poisoning.

The individual is obviously alive – they have not died – and they have fairly basic responses; they do not need help with breathing or blood circulation.

They do not respond to things going on outside them but there are events that indicate that there is ‘a person still present’.

People with Apallic Syndrome do show responses equivalent to waking up, showing anger, hunger or pleasure but not with the consistency that you and I would show.

The majority of doctors now acknowledge that whatever the injury a kind of recovery is possible.

However, there is dead, there is walking and talking – and in between there is a huge spectrum of different levels of responsiveness.

In my own professional personal experience it would be too early to put any such label on Michael Schumacher, but it is correct for doctors to warn his family at this stage – and it is absolutely horrible for doctors to watch.

There are situations worse than dying from an injury.

Mr. Shieff is a neurosurgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in central London. He is also a trustee for Headway, the charity that raises awareness of brain injury.

Tamara Ecclestone loses High Court battle with ex-boyfriend
The Formula 1 heiress claimed she never said Omar Khyami could keep the £380,000 Lamborghini birthday present but the court ruled against her in a written judgment

The F1 heiress, 29, claimed she never said Omar Khyami could have the Lamborghini Aventador.

But Mr. Khyami had used it as security for a loan before their split and the firm seized the car from Ms. Ecclestone.

She must now pay £22,000 to two car companies she stopped from selling it on.

The High Court ruled the Lamborghini was a gift and had been “more trouble than it was worth".

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