Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Vettel called better than Hamilton and Rosberg combined. Ouch.

    Quantum running out of time for Lotus deal – Lopez

  • Kovalainen in the running for 2014 seat – Lotus
  • McLaren removes Mexican marijuana flags
  • Vettel 'better than Hamilton and Rosberg combined' – Marko
  • F1 must confirm Pirelli's aggressive role – Hembery
  • 'Newey is king' even in engine formula – Renault
  • Susie Wolff could get Friday role for 2014
  • Maldonado accuses Williams of sabotaging car
  • Sauber return not guaranteed for Perez
  • Massa puzzled over lack of grip New

Quantum running out of time for Lotus deal – Lopez
(GMM) 'Quantum', the investment group looking to buy 35 per cent of Lotus, has denied once again that the deal is collapsing.

There is no doubt, however, that team owner Gerard Lopez's patience is running out.

"They have very little time," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"Either they fulfill their contractual obligations, or we must draw our conclusions," added Lopez.

The Quantum group is led by Mansour Ijaz, who after playing down speculation in Abu Dhabi recently, has now travelled to Austin with the same message.

"There is no question that the deal is going to work out," he insisted on Saturday.

Ijaz said the hefty flow of cash has been held up by red tape, and promised to apologize for the holdup by paying bonuses out of his own pocket.

Lotus, however, cannot afford to simply go on hoping. It is rumored Pastor Maldonado, with his millions in PDVSA backing in tow, is now definitely headed to Enstone to guarantee the team's 2014 budget.

"I have read that it is being reported in Venezuela that it (the deal) is done," Lopez said, "but nothing is signed yet. He is a serious candidate for next year.

"If other candidates are dropping out it's because they have signed somewhere else," he added.

"We are taking our time, just as we did with Romain (Grosjean last year)," Lopez explained.

"If what actually happened was as it was reported," he smiled, "he (Grosjean) would now be working in the bank."

Lopez admitted, however, that Lotus needs to secure its future financially.

"I will need a sponsor," he said. "Whether the money comes with a driver or not, I don't care — I would also take Fernando Alonso with his sponsor."

He hit out at the press, at Lotus' rivals and the F1 system in general for a lot of the negative stories about the team's finances.

"Some F1 journalists pretend they work for the Wall Street Journal," he started.

"But many of the these stories are deliberately put around the paddock by people who get more money from the rights holders for the same or a worse job as we do."

Kovalainen in the running for 2014 seat – Lotus
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has emerged as a surprise and late contender to drive for Lotus in 2014.

The Finn, Caterham's 'Friday' driver this season, was drafted into Lotus' race lineup for Austin when countryman Kimi Raikkonen headed for early back surgery.

It was believed the highly rated Nico Hulkenberg, or the well-funded Pastor Maldonado, were the only candidates to replace the Ferrari-bound Raikkonen full-time next year.

But Kovalainen has performed strongly from the first practice lap in Austin, qualifying eighth compared to teammate Romain Grosjean's third on Saturday.

Team boss Eric Boullier admitted the 32-year-old might have leapt into contention to race full-time for Lotus in 2014.

"He can be (an option)," the Frenchman told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"It is true that he was not originally on the list, but if he's doing well now, he can change our minds.

"I don't know, anything is possible," Boullier added.

The vacancy for Austin and Brazil was created when Raikkonen headed for back surgery ahead of schedule.

But it has been rumored his relationship with Lotus, broken over a financial dispute, was the real reason.

"Money has little to do with it," team owner Gerard Lopez insists. "We clarified that in Abu Dhabi — he will get his money.

"Maybe his new employer advised him that it would be better to seek treatment as soon as possible," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Indeed, Lopez suspects Lotus' constructors' championship rival Ferrari might also have had something to do with Hulkenberg's sudden unavailability for the seat in Austin and Brazil.

"It was too bad for us, but for sure also a shame for Nico," said the Luxembourger.

"As I understand it, he was paid (by Sauber) all of a sudden, so he was no longer available to us," he added.

McLaren removes Mexican marijuana flags
(GMM) McLaren has denied deliberately placing Mexican flags bearing images of marijuana leaves above the team's official merchandise stall in Austin.

At the first race after it emerged Mexican Sergio Perez has been dropped for 2014, the Mexican consulate reportedly complained about "several" offensive flags ahead of the US grand prix, which takes place in Texas, close to the Mexican border.

The Spanish newspaper AS quoted a Mexican official as saying the country was "profoundly disturbed" by the images.

McLaren said: "The flags were neither manufactured nor authorized by McLaren.

"As soon as we understood the nature of the issue, we immediately ordered the flags be removed.

"We appreciate that embarrassment and offense has been caused, and we regret that the agents and sub-contractors have caused such a situation to arise," the statement added.

In Spanish, Perez defended the British team, telling his Twitter followers: "McLaren would never do something like that."

Vettel 'better than Hamilton and Rosberg combined' – Marko
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel is single-handedly better than Mercedes' entire driver lineup.

That is the provocative claim of Red Bull's always blunt and outspoken Dr Helmut Marko, as Austin polesitter Vettel prepares to break another record on Sunday.

Another win on Sunday would be the dominant German's eighth on the trot, breaking the old record set by his countryman Michael Schumacher.

Still, many do not give new quadruple world champion Vettel the credit that Marko believes he deserves.

"I always hear Mercedes say they have the best driver pairing in formula one," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"Vettel alone is better than Rosberg and Hamilton together," Marko charged. "This is a fact."

The Austrian is referring to the fact that Vettel has 347 points so far in 2013, while Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's combined tally is just 334.

F1 must confirm Pirelli's aggressive role – Hembery
(GMM) Pirelli has warned it will take "a very conservative approach" to 2014 unless its mandate is clearly set out by formula one.

F1's official supplier has been the subject of intense criticism about the quality of its tires in 2014.

But boss Paul Hembery insists many have forgotten that the Italian marque was specifically tasked by Bernie Ecclestone to spice up the races by producing aggressive tires that quickly degrade.

That mandate, however, was never enshrined in the actual rules, to the point that Hembery argues many of the sport's leading figures have now forgotten.

"We just want to know what we should do," he said in Austin.

"We want clear guidance, as it seems to me as though people have forgotten what we were asked to do."

This weekend in Austin, Hembery admitted Pirelli's tire selection – the hard and medium compounds – "is on the conservative side" for the US grand prix.

And he warned that, if Pirelli's role is not clarified, the sport should prepare for more "one-stop races" in 2014.

'Newey is king' even in engine formula – Renault
(GMM) Renault has played down expectations F1 will become a mere 'engine formula' with the new rules of 2014.

It is widely believed that if one manufacturer – such as Mercedes as per the current paddock rumors – gets an early lead in the horsepower stakes, its teams will dominate the new championship.

But Remi Taffin, of world champion Red Bull's engine supplier Renault, thinks car design will continue to be crucial.

"(Adrian) Newey is king," he told Spain's Marca sports newspaper, referring to how Renault goes about integrating its engine to the overall package.

"The overall package is what has to work," said Taffin.

"The importance of aerodynamics will be more or less the same (in 2014)," he added.

Taffin explained that, in his opinion, a key to Red Bull's success in the V8 era has been "the humility of Renault Sport's engineers, who have understood not to have the best engine, or the most powerful, but the best engine for the car".

Meanwhile, Marca correspondent Marco Canseco claims the 2007 Red Bull tested last week for 'filming' purposes at the Los Arcos Navarra circuit may have been wearing a low nose, as per the 2014 regulations.

Susie Wolff could get Friday role for 2014
(GMM) Susie Wolff's role at Williams could be stepped up for 2014 to include Friday practice sessions.

That is the hope of Wolff's husband, Toto Wolff, who although Mercedes' motor sport boss is also still a minor shareholder of the Williams team.

Susie Wolff, 30, has had a test driver role at Williams this year, and is likely to stay at the British team for 2014.

Asked what his wife will be doing next year, Toto Wolff told Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper: "She will probably stay at Williams if she gets a suitable offer.

"But she wants to drive more — Friday practices or some such," he added.

Maldonado accuses Williams of sabotaging car
(GMM) After failing to make it out of 'Q1' on Saturday, Pastor Maldonado accused Williams of sabotaging his car ahead of the US grand prix.

Austin is the first race since it was announced officially that Venezuelan Maldonado, and his millions in PDVSA backing, are heading elsewhere for 2014.

Maldonado began the weekend with an aggressive tone, saying it was his decision to quit Williams because he delivered "more to the team than they (did) for me".

On Saturday, the 28-year-old then qualified 18th, while his teammate Valtteri Bottas – who is staying at Williams in 2014 – made it all the way to the top ten.

"Now the announcement has been made and suddenly things are worse for me," he told Spanish-language journalists after qualifying.

And he told English-language reporters: "I think in my car somebody is playing with the pressure and the temperatures."

Maldonado said it is "great" that, after Sunday, only one more race in his three-year Williams career remains.

Deputy team boss Claire Williams played down Maldonado's comments on the basis that the "adrenaline" of qualifying had not yet left the driver's body.

"People say things after these kind of situations," she said.

"We will go back and talk to the engineers and find out what happened, but never in Williams' history would we ever do anything like that."

But later, when Maldonado spoke to the print media, his mind was still on sabotage.

"I have never felt anything like that from a car," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Asked if he thinks Williams had deliberately sabotaged his car, Maldonado answered: "Maybe, maybe not, but I know very well how our car is.

"For sure, there is something quite big in the tires — (I know) because I've been doing this job for 20 years."

He said he is not even angry. "Frankly I don't care, I will focus on next season. It's over," said the driver.

For Williams, it is a sad end to the Maldonado era, which last year in Spain delivered the team's first win in approaching a decade.

"Within the team, behind closed doors, it's not acrimonious," Claire Williams insisted.

"I don't see any sort of issue. Pastor has said he wants to go to another team and that's absolutely fine — this is formula one. It's the nature of the business."

Sauber return not guaranteed for Perez
(GMM) Sergio Perez will not necessarily simply return to Sauber in 2014, boss Monisha Kaltenborn insists.

The Swiss team was disappointed late last year, when Perez was signed by McLaren.

Sauber continued to wear Telmex branding in 2013, but fellow Mexican Esteban Gutierrez had been promoted from the reserve role.

Two Mexicans for 2014? Perez and Gutierrez wouldn't mind.

"Mexican power!" Gutierrez said on Thursday. Perez agreed: "I think it would be good. Why not?"

Two Mexicans in a single team might appear untidy for a Swiss F1 team, but Kaltenborn said Sauber has "never chosen drivers by nationality".

The team has also been struggling financially in 2013, so might not be in an ideal position to be too choosy.

When asked about Perez, Kaltenborn was quoted by AS newspaper: "We had a good relationship, and good memories of his years here.

"But there are other drivers who could be on the team," the Sauber chief added.

The ball would appear to be in Telmex's court, particularly after McLaren changed direction so radically by ousting Perez.

"The money is there to run both of them (at Sauber)," an unnamed Mexican was quoted in Austin by AS correspondent Manuel Franco, "and even to buy the team."

Massa puzzled over lack of grip
Felipe Massa admitted that his side of the Ferrari garage had not been able to get on top of an issue with his F138 that ultimately prevented him from making it through to the final phase of qualifying at the USGP.

The problem, which the Brazilian was unable to put his finger on, denied him another opportunity of out-qualifying team-mate Fernando Alonso, as he had done at the first USGP in Austin a year ago, and at several races more recently in 2013. Instead, Massa – who leaves Ferrari for Williams at the end of the year – was left floundering in 15th position on the Q2 timesheets, a position that will only improve thanks to the penalty imposed on McLaren's Jenson Button.

“That was a very difficult qualifying," Massa confirmed, “From [Friday] afternoon onwards, I haven't been able to drive the car properly, something isn't working and we haven't managed to work out why.

“I don't think I've got a specific problem, but there really is very little grip, both at the front and the rear, and I wasn't quick on either compound [of tire]. It is very strange, because Fernando managed to adapt better to the car-tire package and I can't understand why I can't do the same, especially as I like this track a lot.

“I never expected to find myself struggling so much. Now we must find a solution for tomorrow because, even if it will be a difficult race, we have to do our utmost to move up the order and bring home points that will be valuable for the constructors' classification."

Ferrari heads into the penultimate race of the season trailing Mercedes by eleven points, but has each of its cars lining up behind one of the Silver Arrows after Nico Rosberg suffered a similarly frustrating qualifying session and also missed the Q2 cut.

“Leaving aside the outcome of this qualifying, it's hard to give a clear explanation of how the weekend has gone," Ferrari's Pat Fry admitted, “The performances seen up to today have been affected by a series of variables and, if one leaves out the Red Bulls, I think that, for the rest of the field, it's been more demanding than usual to understand the behavior of the cars. The changing weather and the varying levels of grip have added an extra challenge when it comes to establishing the set up and understanding the behavior of the compounds chosen for this race.

“I am sorry for Felipe, who didn't manage to get to Q3. Even though he gave it his all, he struggled a lot to find the right feeling, mainly because of the lack of grip. Fernando was better able to adapt, and the result he got today during a very difficult weekend, is down to his great talent. Certainly our aims are higher than a sixth place, but the reduced gap to third place is a great boost for all the team to do their very best in this final part of the season."

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