Latest F1 news in brief – Monday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • It is still possible Alonso (above) will not be able to race in Austin

    Salo backs Raikkonen's surgery over Lotus finale

  • Alonso 'waiting' on fitness for Austin GP
  • Hamilton also struggling in Pirelli era – Webber
  • Coughlan returns to Nascar
  • GP2 struggling to make mark as F1 feeder
  • 2013 title lacked sheen of earlier wins – Mateschitz
  • Kvyat qualifies for F1 super license
  • Ferrari pay tribute to departing Massa
  • Ecclestone Asks To 'Go Back On' Evidence In High Court
  • Too much back pain to race in Austin – Raikkonen New
  • FIA to take $120m F1 ownership stake New

Salo backs Raikkonen's surgery over Lotus finale
(GMM) Late last week, there was no sign Kimi Raikkonen was planning to sit out the last two grands prix of his Lotus career.

Indeed, late on Friday, the team released its official preview of the US grand prix, in which it appeared the Finn's now tense relationship with Lotus had eased.

"He is completely on-side," said team boss Eric Boullier, while Raikkonen was quoted as saying he was "particularly looking forward" to the race weekend.

Within two days, Lotus was issuing a new statement, confirming Raikkonen is out for imminent back surgery.

"Was Kimi sitting comfortably for his seat fitting at Ferrari on Thursday, I wonder?" Reuters correspondent Alan Baldwin commented cynically on Twitter.

"You'd think Lotus might have delayed issuing their race preview on Friday if there was an imminent risk of surgery," he added.

Indeed, as Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson said the surgery had to happen this week because of "severe pain", the timing of the Ferrari seat fitting is also awkward.

The well-connected La Gazzetta dello Sport said Raikkonen was in Maranello last Thursday, where he also met with new bosses Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali.

Former F1 driver Mika Salo, however, backed Raikkonen's decision to sit out Austin and Brazil in order to have back surgery.

"It has been a problem for Kimi for a long time," the Finn told the broadcaster MTV3.

"He was going to have it done in the winter anyway, so when thinking about all that has happened with Lotus – the wages, the deteriorating atmosphere – then I think this is the right decision," added Salo.

"It will give him more time to recover before the tests start in January."

However, Raikkonen's management says the driver will only have to recover for a four week period, which suggests the surgery could have been done after the season finale late this month.

His absence is a real blow to financially-struggling Lotus, who were hoping to improve on fourth in the lucrative constructors' world championship.

"This surgery may cost Lotus millions," said MTV3 commentator Oskari Saari. "There is a big (financial) difference between second and fourth."

Alonso 'waiting' on fitness for Austin GP
(GMM) It is possible Fernando Alonso will not travel to Austin for this weekend's US grand prix.

The highly respected correspondent for Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pino Allievi, said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo "is not even remotely" contemplating the prospect of the Spaniard sitting out the race.

But, after his high-G bump over the Abu Dhabi curbs a week ago, Alonso admitted he was in back pain, while his manager Luis Garcia Abad 'tweeted' an alarming photo of the driver strapped to a spinal board during a post-race hospital check.

Allievi said Ferrari "did not like" Abad's dramatic photo, adding another small piece to Alonso's growing rift with the Italian team.

But Alonso did have subsequent medical tests in Spain early last week, and according to Allievi "he is waiting until the beginning of this week" to be sure he will leave for America as scheduled on Tuesday.

"In the meantime, Fernando is completely resting in Spain," the veteran correspondent added.

Even if Alonso does travel to Austin, he would then need to pass the FIA's own medical checks on Thursday.

Allievi said that in the "unlikely" event that Alonso sits out Austin, his replacement will probably be the Ferrari-backed Frenchman, Jules Bianchi.

Bianchi's team, Marussia, "is bound to release (Bianchi) when the call comes from Maranello", he explained.

Ferrari's second choice is reportedly the veteran reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa.

Hamilton also struggling in Pirelli era – Webber
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has also struggled to shine on Pirelli's 2013 tires.

That is the claim of Red Bull's Mark Webber, who is ending his long formula one career at the end of the season and switching to Le Mans for 2014 and beyond.

F1's controversial tire supplier, however, is staying put for at least another three years.

Having gone head-to-head with Sebastian Vettel for the Bridgestone-shod 2010 title, Australian Webber has increasingly struggled at Red Bull alongside the German ever since.

Is Pirelli the secret?

"I don't know if there's a secret," Vettel said after winning in Abu Dhabi; his eleventh win of the season, and his seventh on the trot.

Webber, in contrast, has not won at all in 2013.

He has said on record that Pirelli's sensitive tires this year do not suit his style. Webber thinks Mercedes' Hamilton is having a similar problem.

"He is having trouble expressing himself on the Pirelli tires, like me," he told the Daily Mail.

"It's not meant to be an excuse, even if it probably sounds like one, but it's obvious I had less success on the Pirellis."

Webber said his strength in fast corners, and Vettel's in slow corners, at least partly explains this year's results.

"He's probably the master on the Pirelli tires," said Webber. "It's bad news for the others that Pirelli are staying."

Coughlan returns to Nascar
(GMM) Mike Coughlan is returning to America's premier Nascar series.

After leaving F1 in disgrace amid the 'spygate' scandal of last decade, the former McLaren chief designer re-emerged in Nascar, working for Michael Waltrip Racing.

He then returned to F1 as Williams' technical director for 2012, but in the middle of this year Williams replaced him with another controversial F1 figure, Pat Symonds.

Coughlan, 54, is now returning to the Nascar world, with the Richard Childress Racing team.

According to the official Nascar website, he will be the technical director.

GP2 struggling to make mark as F1 feeder
(GMM) Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko has joined his McLaren counterpart in criticizing the official F1 feeder series, GP2.

The 2012 GP2 champion, Davide Valsecchi, has sat out the entire 2013 season so far as Lotus' reserve driver.

And Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that first and second in this year's series, champion Fabio Leimer and runner-up Sam Bird, have "no chance" of moving into F1 for 2014.

At the very same time, the completely separate Formula Renault 3.5 series has seen the McLaren-backed juniors Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne dominate in 2013.

And behind the McLaren pair this year was Red Bull's Antonio Felix da Costa, even though the energy drink company plucked Russian Daniil Kvyat straight out of GP3 to move into F1 with Toro Rosso for next season.

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh recently said the Renault 'world series' is a "much higher quality championship than GP2".

Red Bull's Dr Marko agrees: "It (GP2) is far too expensive. It costs EUR 5 million per driver, while in GP3 it (the cost) is 600,000."

Marko also criticized the quality of the latest GP2 drivers, explaining that no Lewis Hamilton (2006) or Romain Grosjean (2011)-like standout has emerged recently.

The latest reports, meanwhile, suggest new Formula Renault 3.5 champion Magnussen is now on the verge of being confirmed as Sergio Perez's race replacement at McLaren for 2014.

Runner-up Vandoorne, meanwhile, is in McLaren driver Jenson Button's management stable.

But the 2009 world champion said: "F1 (in 2014) would be a year too early for Stoffel."

2013 title lacked sheen of earlier wins – Mateschitz
(GMM) A leading figure at Red Bull's title sponsor Infiniti has admitted Sebastian Vettel has been "too successful" this year.

Andy Palmer, the luxury Nissan division's marketing boss, said the ease with which the German has been winning in 2013 has been a questionable spectacle.

"From that point of view you could say Sebastian has been too successful," he told Autocar.

"Wrapping up the championship with four races to run is maybe not good news for us from that perspective."

Even Dietrich Mateschitz, the Red Bull mogul and billionaire, admits the success of 2013 lacked the excitement of some previous triumphs.

"Obviously (that's true)," he told Austrian journalists, including for the Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"But it's not as though it's 'dinner for one' on New Year's Eve. It's still far from normal."

However, it is a fact that Mateschitz has been notably absent from the paddock in 2013 — even when Vettel wrapped up his fourth consecutive title.

"Well, I'm almost 70," he said, "and we've been 19 years in formula one — ten with Peter Sauber and now it's the ninth with Red Bull.

"You don't necessarily want to keep going to Shanghai and not see the sun for four days. I prefer to go up a mountain, collecting mushrooms, biking or whatever. Time is precious," added Mateschitz.

Kvyat qualifies for F1 super license
(GMM) Daniil Kvyat has qualified for his F1 super license.

Energy drink company Red Bull has named the Russian teenager as Daniel Ricciardo's successor at Toro Rosso for 2014.

But the marque wants to give Kvyat an early start by sending him out for Friday morning practice sessions this weekend in Austin, and the following week in Brazil.

Until now, the only spanner in the works has been the new GP3 champion's lack of a F1 super license, the mandatory FIA credential needed by drivers in order to participate in official race weekend sessions.

Red Bull therefore arranged a test in a two-year-old Toro Rosso for Kvyat last week at the Misano circuit in Italy, so that he could collect the necessary 300 kilometers of running in front of an FIA observer.

Before the test, Marko told Russia's "It's all organized. Everything will be fine."

Indeed, the Red Bull-connected Speed Week magazine reports that Kvyat did the 300km last Friday at a representative race pace.

"We're going to America!" he told his 8,700 Twitter followers the next day.

"I will spend the weekend with the team and participate in the first free practice," Kvyat added in Russian.

Ferrari pay tribute to departing Massa
Felipe Massa said farewell to thousands of Ferrari fans in Italy on Sunday and received a trophy nearly as tall as him to celebrate his time with the Formula One team.

"I've been lucky, I have had a great career with Ferrari, longer than I had ever dreamed of at the start," the departing Brazilian told reporters after appearing at a wet Mugello track for a Ferrari event with a 15,000-strong crowd.

Massa, who still has two races in Texas and Brazil to come for the team before he is replaced by Finland's Kimi Raikkonen next year, had his first F1 test at the same track with Sauber back in 2001.

"When I began racing in go-karts as a kid, I had a red Ferrari suit and it's always been the team I supported. Even when (Ayrton) Senna was at McLaren and (Nelson) Piquet at Williams, I was cheering for Ferrari," he said.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and other senior management presented the 1.6 meter tall driver with a 1.2 meter high silver trophy engraved with the names of the 11 grands prix he won for the team.

"Felipe has been a true Ferrari man and he will always be part of our history," said Montezemolo. "I think the decision to go our separate ways is the right one, both for us and for him. It's time for a change and also to find new motivation."

Massa, 32 and championship runner-up in 2008, has yet to announce his plans for 2014 although he has said he is hopeful he can stay in Formula One. Reuters

Ecclestone Asks To 'Go Back On' Evidence In High Court
F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE asked on Friday to "go back on" some of the evidence he had given to the High Court on Thursday in his $140M damages lawsuit as he was accused of "lying repeatedly," according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH.

On another tense day of cross-examination, which produced some heated exchanges between 83-year-old Ecclestone, who is a co-defendant in the suit, and PHILIP MARSHALL, representing Constantin Medien, Ecclestone said that he had not had sufficient time to prepare himself and had been "in a hurry" when giving evidence on Thursday.

Giving evidence for a third straight day on Friday, Ecclestone said that "he had not had time to look through all the documents properly." Ecclestone told Marshall, "Yesterday I was in rather a hurry. You've had months and months and months to look through all the documents and pick out points. I've been in lots of different countries and done lots and lots of miles on airplanes and I haven't had the opportunity to do that. Now I'm going to have. I don't care if this takes until the end of the year. I will look at everything now."

Later, Ecclestone repeated the point when addressing the judge, GUY NEWEY, saying that he had been "in a hurry yesterday and made some answers which I'd like to go back on if I have the opportunity." TELEGRAPH

In London, Owen Gibson wrote Marshall put it to Ecclestone that he had blocked other potential bidders from conducting due diligence on F1 at a time when banker GERHARD GRIBKOWSKY's Bayern LB bank "was considering selling its stake but actively encouraged CVC to bid and guided them on how much to pay."

It was claimed that "Ecclestone brushed off rival approaches for BayernLB's 47% stake from Hutchison Whampoa and Rothschild Group, among others, in favor of CVC's bid." Ecclestone, throughout his three days giving evidence, has insisted that he "did not care who owned the company."

Ecclestone: "It's a fact. I've said for two days running I wasn't the slightest bit bothered who owned the shares. I run it." Lawyers representing Ecclestone have outlined their case to the judge in written arguments and said the claim "lacks any merit" and "is an artificial, manufactured complaint."

The "trial continues." GUARDIAN

Too much back pain to race in Austin – Raikkonen
(GMM) With skepticism greeting news of his early bath in 2013, Kimi Raikkonen on Monday said he has to have surgery on his back to end unbearable pain.

Some linked the Finn's imminent surgery this week, ahead of the final Austin-Brazil double header of the 2013 season, with his Lotus pay dispute and deteriorating relationship with the Enstone based team.

But Raikkonen, who is switching to Ferrari next year and had a seat fitting at Maranello late last week, said on Monday that he is "disappointed" he will not finish the 2013 season.

"I would have gladly driven, but the pain is just too bad — I cannot even think about getting in the car," the 2007 world champion told Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.

Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson added: "It has been so intense in the past few days that he has not been able to sleep without pain killers."

FIA to take $120m F1 ownership stake
(GMM) The FIA is set to take a 1 per cent ownership stake in formula one.

Writing in the Guardian, leading F1 business journalist Christian Sylt said the move will be part of the sport's forthcoming stock market floatation.

It is the result of a deal between F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt for the signing of the new Concorde Agreement.

"The FIA gets 1pc if F1 floats but the teams don't have shares," Ecclestone said.

F1 owner CVC's $12 billion valuation of F1 means the FIA's stake is worth $120 million.

But for the moment, the proposed float is on the back burner, while Ecclestone is caught up in the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption affair.

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