F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)


Is McLaren using Magnussen to get Carlos Slim to write a bigger check for Perez?

Update shown in red below.


  • McLaren yet to decide between Perez, Magnussen
  • New Pirelli deal to be for three years only – chairman
  • Managing tire situation in 2013 'just luck' – Newey
  • 'No interest' in succeeding besieged Ecclestone – Horner
  • Rosberg confident Mercedes can beat Red Bull in 2014
  • Raikkonen could race a Sauber in Austin – Salo
  • Stepney reveals 2007 F1 espionage scandal details New

McLaren yet to decide between Perez, Magnussen
(GMM) In light of conflicting reports about its 2014 driver lineup, McLaren insists it is yet to decide who Jenson Button's teammate will be.

A week ago, in Abu Dhabi, it appeared the British team would imminently confirm what it had described as the most likely outcome — keeping Mexican Sergio Perez on board for a second season.

Sporting director Sam Michael had said Perez is "driving well" in the second half of this season", while Button said the 23-year-old "deserves" to stay put for 2014.

But, early this week, a conflicting report in the Telegraph suggested the Woking based team could in fact oust Perez and replace him with the McLaren-backed youngster – and new Formula Renault 3.5 champion – Kevin Magnussen.

A McLaren spokesman told us late on Wednesday: "We'll make the announcement as and when we're ready to do so, but we haven't yet made our selection."

New Pirelli deal to be for three years only – chairman
(GMM) Pirelli is close to finalizing a new deal to continue supplying tires in formula one beyond the end of its 2013 contract.

However, while it was believed the new deal beginning in 2014 would last for five years, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that a contract of that length might run into legal trouble in the absence of an official tender.

So, Pirelli chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera was quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport this week as saying: "We have asked for an exclusive agreement for three years.

"We are in the final stages now. There is no pressure, but we have a very close collaboration with the federation, because the tires are used according to our instructions."

Recently, both Tronchetti Provera and Pirelli's F1 chief Paul Hembery warned that the Italian marque could quit F1 at the eleventh hour because of the teams' reluctance to cooperate in tire development testing.

Tronchetti Provera said in Milan on Wednesday: "We expect it to be formalized that tests will be done with a 2013 car, and that tests may take place during the season."

To Auto Motor und Sport, Hembery explained: "To prepare for the (pre-season) tests in Bahrain, we need tests in December and January with the 2013 cars."

But at the moment, the rules forbid testing with 2013 cars. Auto Motor und Sport said Mercedes' Niki Lauda in Abu Dhabi worked hard to convince rival teams to help the sport's tire supplier.

"We need to help them if we want to prevent a repeat of the tire dramas of this year," said the great Austrian.

"It is in everybody's interest. We will have a 2013 car ready for Pirelli when they want it, and the others should do the same," added Lauda.

Managing tire situation in 2013 'just luck' – Newey
(GMM) Adrian Newey has hit back at claims Pirelli's mid-season tire switch was a stab at the ingenuity of rival teams like Lotus and Ferrari.

The tire-exploding dramas of Silverstone in July forced F1 to allow its official tire supplier to revert to the kevlar-belted construction of 2012.

Teams like Lotus and Ferrari, however, complained loudly that the switch negated their pre-season work in specifically adapting their 2013 cars to the new steel-belted Pirellis.

Red Bull designer Newey, whose RB9 utterly dominated the second half of the season in the wake of the tire switch, rubbished those claims.

Speaking on Austrian television Servus TV, the Briton acknowledged that the initial 2013 Pirelli was "much more sensitive" than in 2012, and that the RB9 was quickly wearing the tires in the fast corners.

He therefore admits that the mid-season switch helped Red Bull, but takes issue with claims rival cars were better suited to the initial Pirelli tires by design.

"I think Lotus and Ferrari made a lot of noise about how clever they were in the winter in anticipating the situation that we saw (early in 2013)," said Newey.

"Frankly, I think they were just lucky, just as we were a little unlucky," he added.

'No interest' in succeeding besieged Ecclestone – Horner
(GMM) Christian Horner this week has once again played down reports he is first in line should Bernie Ecclestone step down as F1 supremo.

83-year-old Ecclestone is fighting legal battles on several fronts at present over the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery scandal.

On Wednesday, he amused reporters as he arrived to testify in London's high court, calling them "lazy bastards" before entering the revolving door and then exiting it on the same side.

He then tried to enter the building through a conventional glass door that wouldn't open, shrugging when the reporters asked if he is confident he will prevail in the multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by a German media company.

While testifying, F1's inimitable chief executive sounded unconcerned about the outcome of his legal troubles, which could ultimately see his long reign over the sport end.

"I don't mind," Ecclestone told Constantin Medien's lawyer, "I've got plenty of things to do."

If the diminutive Briton is forced into retirement, or is jailed, one name constantly mentioned as a potential successor is Christian Horner — Red Bull's 39-year-old, ultra-successful team boss who is famously allied to Ecclestone.

British newspapers quoted Horner as saying on Wednesday: "Looking at the health that Bernie's in, he's going to outlive all of us!

"I have no interest in the role that he performs. My focus is in running a team and I think actually to replace Bernie would be impossible, certainly with one person.

"I'm very happy with what I do here," Horner insisted. "I'm focused and committed to this team."

However, Horner's attitude might be changed if Red Bull's current team begins to break up.

Designer Adrian Newey has been linked with an America's Cup foray, while Sebastian Vettel is constantly linked with a move to Ferrari.

Indeed, it has been suggested leaving Red Bull might be the only way the new quadruple world champion is accepted both in terms of popularity and greatness.

Alain Prost said: "If he (Vettel) wants to he should move, but not to please someone else — only if he wants to do it for himself."

Vettel, however, said he is committed to Red Bull.

"Even if I go to another team, I will still have people who doubt or don't like who I am and what I do," said the 26-year-old.

"At the end of the day you have to be happy with yourself and right now I can assure you I'm very happy with who I am and what I do."

Rosberg confident Mercedes can beat Red Bull in 2014
(GMM) Nico Rosberg says he is confident Mercedes can end Red Bull's dominance ahead of the 2014 season.

At first glance, the German's prediction seems unlikely, given the way Sebastian Vettel is currently winning grands prix with a two-second per lap advantage.

"Well, I don't think it's two seconds faster," Rosberg is quoted by Brazil's Agencia Estado, "I think it's less than that.

"Ok, maybe it (the advantage) is that sometimes, but – either way – I'm not worried, because next year is a great opportunity where everyone will be put back to zero.

"Everybody starts from scratch," he added.

Actually, the claim that all teams will start 'from scratch' at the beginning of 2014 might not be completely accurate.

It is believed that, due to the complexity of the radical and all-new turbo V6 and 'power unit' regulations, one engine manufacturer might have a clear early advantage.

It is rumored that engine marque could be Mercedes.

Reliability will also be crucially important.

"Whoever wants to win the 2014 title," Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali told Die Welt newspaper this week, "must have a reliable unit at the beginning of the season.

"Since fuel consumption will be limited, the engine must be powerful but still efficient," he added.

"The first races will be the most important next year," Domenicali claimed. "Whoever has the most wins at an early stage of the season will succeed in the end. I am convinced," he added.

Rosberg, meanwhile, said he is convinced Mercedes – who like Ferrari is the other engine rival for Renault-powered Red Bull – can do a good job ahead of the new era.

"Earlier this season, without the regulation change, we were sometimes the fastest car," he said.

"We did an amazing job last winter and I am confident we can do it again. Ok, this year we've had some weaknesses but we've learned from it.

"I am very sure we can have a good season," added Rosberg.

Raikkonen could race a Sauber in Austin – Salo
(GMM) The big question ahead of next weekend's US grand prix in Austin is the whereabouts of Kimi Raikkonen.

That is the claim of former F1 driver turned pundit Mika Salo.

Lotus claimed after Abu Dhabi that its pay dispute with Finn Raikkonen is now over, and that he will contentedly drive the black and gold car in Texas and Brazil before switching to Ferrari for 2014.

Fellow Finn Salo is not so sure.

"Let's see if Kimi is in Austin," he told the broadcaster MTV3, "and in what car.

"It's probably the most anticipated thing about the whole American grand prix weekend. There have been rumors Kimi will drive a Sauber instead of a Lotus," said Salo.

The Raikkonen-to-Sauber rumor is new, but it would seem to tie in with reports Nico Hulkenberg, the Swiss team's current driver, is Lotus' preferred option to replace Raikkonen in 2014.

Sauber, meanwhile, is powered by engines supplied by Raikkonen's new employer, Ferrari.

"For now it's just a rumor," Salo admitted.

"Kimi loves to drive, but the atmosphere at Lotus is no longer good for him. Sauber is also short of money and has not paid for Nico Hulkenberg," he added.

Whatever is powering Raikkonen in Austin, Salo is sure the 2007 world champion will drive flat out.

"If Kimi is in Austin, he will definitely be on it," he said.

"With our Finnish mentality, no matter what is going on it doesn't affect our performance. We sit in the car and drive it as hard as we can."

Stepney reveals 2007 F1 espionage scandal details
Nigel Stepney has spoken out for the first time regarding the industrial espionage scandal that rocked F1 in 2007. The Englishman who now runs the successful JRM sportscar team, was accused and convicted of passing Ferrari’s technical secrets to the McLaren team. He received a suspended jail sentence and McLaren was hit with a record fine of $100,000,000.

Stepney still largely denies wrong doing in the case, in an interview published in the latest issue of Racecar Engineering he puts his side of the story across for the first time, “I like to try to win on a fair basis but when I was there I disagreed with something that was going on within Ferrari" he explains.

At the opening round of the 2007 season in Melbourne, Australia Stepney had an informal chat with his former colleague Mike Coughlan then at McLaren. They discussed the rear wing and moveable floor fitted to the Ferrari F2007, both of which Stepney felt were outside of the regulations.

“I thought it was not correct, and although I was wrong to discuss it, winning until you get stopped was not the correct way. It went against the grain" he explains.

Coughlan then reported the conversation to his bosses with McLaren, which investigated the claims and found that they were correct. McLaren then asked the FIA for a clarification on the legality of these parts, the wing was deemed legal but the floor was not. McLaren did not protest the result of the race which Ferrari won. A letter from McLaren boss Ron Dennis written to the Italian motorsport authority at a later date and recently shown to Racecar Engineering states that “We chose not to protest the result of the Australian Grand Prix even though it seems clear that Ferrari had an illegal competitive advantage."

Stepney was later accused of passing a dossier of technical information which Mike Coughlan was found to have in his possession but it is something he strenuously denies “as far as information passing when they showed me the document I had not seen 90 percent of the information on it."

The resulting information that leaked out revealed Ferrari’s use of a buckling floor stay, trick tire gasses to reduce degradation, brake balance adjustments and many other technical secrets. Racecar Engineering released much of this information in 2007 after un-redacted documents were sent to its London office (2007 Ferrari F1 secrets revealed).

After the scandal broke the FIA advised against any team from employing Stepney, but later the situation changed and the governing body even wanted to recruit him. “I think six months later Mosley retracted the advice not to employ me and said that there more behind the scenes that meets the eye. I also have a letter that shows that I got a job offer from the FIA. I refused."

Read the full interview in the December issue of Racecar Engineering.

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