Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Vettel: Bring on Alonso

    Vettel 'not afraid' of Alonso head-to-head

  • No orange for McLaren after Dennis return
  • 'F1 not always best option for Brazilians'
  • Conviction in Germany could send F1 boss Ecclestone to prison for 10 years
  • Ecclestone Says He Will Return To Series' Board After Trial
  • Same judge to rule over Ecclestone trial
  • Trial means Ecclestone's era of reign over F1 is about over
  • Williams secure long-term future New

Vettel 'not afraid' of Alonso head-to-head
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel insists he is not afraid to go head-to-head with one of F1's very best drivers, hinting his next move could be to Ferrari.

Red Bull's reigning world champion is under contract for the next couple of years, but some continue to question his talent compared to a driver like Fernando Alonso.

Kimi Raikkonen, after a two-year sabbatical and then two comeback years with Lotus, has joined Ferrari for 2014, demonstrating he is not put off by Spaniard Alonso's perceived position of dominance at the Italian marque.

But German Vettel insists he is not afraid to go head-to-head.

"Maybe someday I will be on the same team with Kimi or Fernando," he told Sport Bild magazine.

"You always want to beat the strongest opponents, so I'm not afraid," Vettel, who this year will be paired at Red Bull with Daniel Ricciardo, added.

Assessing Vettel's character, 1996 world champion Damon Hill said the German is nothing like his countryman, mentor and friend Michael Schumacher.

"That's what makes F1 interesting," he is quoted by the Times of India. "Vettel is like a puppy, so much enthusiasm, it seems the track is his school playground."

But Hill thinks Vettel could be in for a much tougher fight this year, having utterly dominated the second part of the 2013 season, winning nine races on the trot.

"The championship is likely to go down the wire this time," he said. "It's going to be unpredictable with double points proposed in the final race of the season."

Many believe it is Vettel's dominance that motivated Bernie Ecclestone to push so hard for the controversial double points concept.

"It will make things exciting," said Hill. "I've heard a lot of people say it's stupid but why isn't it a good idea? Maybe it's a great idea."

Not surprisingly, Vettel has slammed double points as "absurd" because it unfairly penalizes dominant drivers like himself.

But F1 chief executive Ecclestone told Autoweek: "I said (to him) 'don't be too sure that you are going to have an easy year next year'. There is nothing wrong with it for anybody."

Particularly, Ecclestone added, for the fans and the media.

"The press and television have got a story. (Double points means) the championship is not over. They (other drivers) still have a chance," he told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.

Ecclestone also revealed that no one, not even powerful Ferrari, can veto the rule change now, as it has been approved by the World Motor Sport Council.

"It is what it is," a relaxed Raikkonen said during his visit to Ferrari's Maranello headquarters last week. "It's the rule and, like it or not, it isn't going to change."

The Finn is also laid back about the radical 2014 rules, despite many drivers predicting a huge challenge with the extreme torque of the new V6 engines.

"my feeling is that it's not going to be as different as people think," he said. "I might be wrong but hopefully we find out that it's pretty simple."

Meanwhile, Raikkonen showed that his recent back surgery appears to have been a complete success, leaping from the drivers' seat of a Ferrari road car over a puddle.

No orange for McLaren after Dennis return
(GMM) McLaren's 2014 car will not be orange, Italy's Omnicorse reports.

With Honda arriving in 2015, the long Mercedes partnership entering the final straight and title sponsor Vodafone now departed, it had been rumored the Woking based team could revert to its traditional colors.

"I really like the idea (of an orange livery)," Martin Whitmarsh, whose position as team boss is in serious doubt following Ron Dennis' return, said last year.

"If we're lucky enough to find a sponsor who likes orange, you could see that color again in formula one," Whitmarsh had said in 2013.

But Omnicorse claims the MP4-29 will in fact retain the chrome finish of past seasons, given that it is not clear a new title sponsor has been signed.

That would leave the door open for a full change of identity for the new Honda era in 2015.

Whitmarsh's proposal for orange, therefore, might have been dismissed by the newly all-powerful and famously meticulous Dennis.

Reports say his 20-minute speech to McLaren staff last week, just before it was announced publicly that he is replacing Whitmarsh as chief executive, was followed by a standing ovation.

Dennis, 66, had promised "changes", and after the disastrous 2013 season, that was welcomed by team staff.

"It's safe to say today's news was received well!" race and test coordinator Clare Martin said on Twitter.

McLaren design engineer Giovanni Banzola added: "So inspired by Ron's speech yesterday!"

Former team driver and long-time F1 pundit John Watson, however, warned that it should not be expected that Dennis' return will lead to immediate success.

"They were subjugated by Ferrari at the turn of the century, then for two years by Renault, four seasons by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull and Mercedes are now looking very strong for 2014," he wrote in the Daily Mail.

"It is a difficult route to get back to the top, and it won't be a walk in the park just because Ron is coming back.

"It will be a building process, and that process in part is going to start with this new engine formula and working towards 2015 with Honda and then beyond," he added.

'F1 not always best option for Brazilians'
(GMM) The president of Brazil's auto racing federation is not sure it is true that "F1 is always the best option" for the country's rising drivers.

Confederacao Brasileira de Automobilismo (CBA) president Cleyton Pinteiro's comments follow the criticism of well-known F1 figures like Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello, who have said more should be done to support new Brazilian drivers on the road to formula one.

Brazil has a rich history of F1 drivers, with Ayrton Senna considered perhaps the sport's all-time great, Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi also winning titles, Barrichello holding the record as the most experienced driver and Massa also enjoying a long and successful Ferrari career.

But with that seat now taken by Kimi Raikkonen, Massa has moved to struggling Williams for 2014, and he will be alone in flying the green, yellow and blue colors around the F1 calendar this year.

That's because burgeoning drivers like Luiz Razia and Felipe Nasr have stumbled at the final hurdle to F1, as despite the strong Brazilian economy, both were priced out of the market for race seats in the past couple of years.

Pinteiro, however, insists that F1 is not the be-all and end-all of top motor sport.

"Today, Brazil is a reference in almost all of the categories worldwide," he told Globo Esporte.

"We have strong national motor sport, which pays well and gives the drivers a return for their sponsors.

"Luiz Razia and Felipe Nasr are not absent (from F1) because they lack talent. F1 is not always the best option," Pinteiro argues.

"We have several Brazilians racing in several global categories, which unfortunately is not properly recognized.

"Do a search for who is the current vice-champion of the (German touring car series) DTM. Did you know it is Augusto Farfus?

"A Brazilian won the Indianapolis 500 and another (Brazilian) driver fought for the (2013 IndyCar) championship until the very last race," he added.

"The world of motor sport is not limited to F1," Pinteiro insisted.

Conviction in Germany could send F1 boss Ecclestone to prison for 10 years
Bernie Ecclestone is facing the prospect of up to 10 years in jail if convicted of bribery charges in Germany. Formula One's embattled chief executive has been removed from the sport's executive board after German prosecutors announced he will face trial in April for alleged corruption.

"The possible maximum penalty is a 10-year prison sentence," the German newspaper Bild has reported.

Banker Gerhard Gribkowsky has already been jailed for eight and a half years for accepting Ecclestone's bribe, but according to the judge in that case, the F1 boss's alleged acts were worse. Indeed, that same judge — Peter Noll — will also preside over the Ecclestone case. In the Gribkowsky trial, Noll claimed the "driving force" of the corruption "was Mr. Ecclestone."

For now, 83-year-old Briton Ecclestone is typically bullish and claiming innocence, but even he admits that jail will definitely end his long reign over F1.

"I don't think I could operate that well from a German prison — I hope I don't have to," he told the Express newspaper.

Dr. Helmut Marko, a consultant for the world champion F1 team Red Bull Racing team, said he continues to support Ecclestone.

"He must be presumed innocent," the Austrian told Germany's SID news agency. "Of course these are not easy circumstances, but until there is a judgment, he will remain our partner." Autoweek

Ecclestone Says He Will Return To Series' Board After Trial
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that "he will return to the board of the company which runs Formula 1 following his indictment on bribery charges in Germany," according to the BBC.

He said, "The minute the court case is over I'll be back on the board again."

Ecclestone "is charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust and will be obliged to appear at his trial, which Bavaria's district court says is likely to start in late April" BBC

Same judge to rule over Ecclestone trial
In London, David Charter reported Ecclestone’s trial on bribery charges "will be overseen by the judge who jailed a banker for receiving payments from the Grand Prix billionaire."

Judge Peter Noll "presided over the conviction of Gerhard Gribkowsky for corruption over the sale of Formula One, telling the court in Munich that the banker appeared to have been 'led into crime'" by Ecclestone.

Gribkowsky "was sentenced to 8½ years in jail in 2012."

Noll’s office said Friday that "he would head a panel of judges" weighing Ecclestone’s case. London Times

Trial means Ecclestone's era of reign over F1 is about over
Daniel Johnson wrote F1 "has arrived at a crossroads." Ecclestone "no longer signs the checks, which surely marks the beginning of the end for this chapter of the sport’s history."

And while the glitz and glamour of F1, as it globetrots between immaculate, multimillion-pound venues, "might indicate that it is in rude health, it belies a sport in urgent need of renewal and reform, as it struggles to keep pace with its international competitors in the battle for global appeal."

Ecclestone "is a fighter and is unlikely to simply fade away."

But regardless of whether he survives this latest saga, F1 "is a sport in need of reform."

The question of "who will lead and champion that reform, and what direction it will take, still needs to be answered." TELEGRAPH

Williams secure long-term future
Williams may have had a tough time last season but Claire Williams is confident those trials have helped secure the team's "long-term future"

Last season was arguably one of the worst in recent times for Williams as the Formula One team secured just five points, least of all the established teams.

However, it was a year for change as well.

Not only did the team sign a deal to use Mercedes engines that comes into effect this season, they also brought in Pat Symonds to head the technical department and then signed Felipe Massa for 2014.

And Williams, the team's deputy team principal, believes those will be the stepping stones towards a brighter future.

"Everything that we have done is all about securing the long-term future of Williams, not just the future of it but working towards its future success," she told Autosport.

"Everything we have done is thought very strategically through to make sure it is sustainable and will take Williams into the future.

"Rather than taking rash decision or decisions that are sticking plasters, it's a very strategic approach. The Mercedes deal is a long-term arrangement.

"We have stability with our driver line-up, which we are excited about. And the senior management team at board level is also stable and that will remain stable into the longer term as well.

"The engineering side, led by Pat, is all about long-term stability and succession planning.

"We had some shocking results, but people still kept fighting.

"We have done so much work to change how we operate to make sure that we ensure the future of the team."

The team has also subsequently signed revamped their engineering department by signing Jakob Andreasen, Craig Wilson and Rod Nelson.

"We are so lucky that in times of adversity we stay together and keep fighting.

"Now there is this sense of momentum that there is change happening and everyone is pushing that bit harder.

"The biggest thing I have learned is about the mindset of this team and how impressive people at Williams are in their tenacity." Planet F1

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