F1 news in brief – Sunday

  • Fernando Alonso beaten by his teammate yet again

    Ecclestone backs Raikkonen over strike threat

  • Alonso plays down pace gap to teammate Massa
  • Ricciardo happy 2014 teammate Vettel only 'human'
  • Hulkenberg 'not paid a penny' – Vettel
  • McLaren to announce 2014 drivers soon – boss
  • Video: Two F1 drivers race Renault Twizy
  • Bernie: Door is open for India’s return
  • Interesting developments at Toro Rosso
  • Kvyat to secure F1 super-license

Ecclestone backs Raikkonen over strike threat
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has backed Kimi Raikkonen's threat to strike after the Finn revealed he has not been paid "a single euro" in 2013.

Raikkonen only travelled to Abu Dhabi at the last minute, but he is now warning he will sit out Austin and Brazil if the team does not pay him a reported EUR 15 million.

"He has signed a contract with somebody and they need to pay him," F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told the Mirror.

"I feel sorry for him but he should have been a little more sensible when he signed the contract and know what he was signing for.

"If he wants to stand down for a couple of races, that's up to him. He knows the consequences of that," he added.

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve also said Raikkonen is right to have finally run out of patience.

"People are saying he should be doing it for the passion alone but he is a professional racing driver. It's his job," said the French Canadian.

"If I was him I definitely wouldn't be going to Austin or Sao Paulo if I wasn't paid."

Raikkonen's trying weekend deepened even further late on Saturday, despite recovering his loss of form of recent races by reverting to Lotus' original shorter-wheelbase car.

After qualifying in Abu Dhabi, the Finn's car failed a floor deflection test, and the stewards did not accept the explanation that it had been damaged on a curb.

Raikkonen was relegated from fifth to the back of the grid.

Talking to Auto Motor und Sport, Lotus engineer Alan Permane accused the FIA of a double standard.

"This was absolutely comparable to Hungary," he said, referring to the situation involving Romain Grosjean earlier this season, which was not similarly punished.

"Kimi had no advantage for the rest of the lap, and in fact in the slow corners he was slightly disadvantaged," Permane insisted.

Alonso plays down pace gap to teammate Massa
(GMM) For the third time on the trot, Ferrari's departing Felipe Massa in Abu Dhabi outqualified his famous teammate Fernando Alonso.

Spaniard Alonso, however, rubbished suggestions his loss of form is a symptom of his deteriorated relationship with the fabled Maranello team.

"It's not only about qualifying," he said, after failing even to join Massa in the 'Q3' segment.

"There are many things you can do for qualifying that make the car quicker and then in the race you're slower," added Alonso.

He said that while Massa – who is fighting hard to find an alternative race seat for 2014 – has had the edge in qualifying recently, "in those races I finished in front and I have a lot more points".

"Saturdays are good for the show and for talking, but the points are on Sundays," said Alonso.

Massa acknowledged that his Sundays have not been as good as his Saturdays.

"I hope to continue like this until the end," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

"There are two more tracks that I like, in the United States and Brazil, so I am trying to do a decent end to the year, both in qualifying but also in the races."

Ricciardo happy 2014 teammate Vettel only 'human'
(GMM) Daniel Ricciardo might be forgiven if his excitement is tempered by nerves as the last few races of the 2013 season play out.

On the one hand, the 24-year-old Australian is about to join F1's dominantly-competitive team, the reigning four time world champions Red Bull.

But his teammate will be Sebastian Vettel, the indomitable German who according to many paddock insiders has raced into F1 greatness this year alongside legends like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

On Saturday in Abu Dhabi, however – the first qualifying session since Vettel wrapped up his fourth title – Vettel was outpaced by his retiring teammate Mark Webber, who will start Sunday's race from pole.

Ricciardo is taking countryman Webber's place for 2014.

"Something like that," said Ricciardo, referring to Vettel's qualifying defeat, "shows that he (Vettel) is human.

"Sebastian has always been very strong here, so I think Mark is very happy with that and it gives me a little hope for the coming year," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

Ricciardo is understandably spending his last three races with Toro Rosso with a watchful eye over proceedings at the senior team, and his on-form 2014 teammate.

"He (Vettel) is in the form of his life," he admitted to the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "I don't see a single weakness.

"Maybe I should put something in his food," the Perth-born racer joked, flashing his characteristic and ever-present grin.

Ricciardo insisted, however, that he does not fear the prospect of going head-to-head with Vettel next year.

"I think that as a four-time world champion, Sebastian has a lot more pressure than I do," he said.

"I am just a young driver so no one expects that I will beat him."

Perhaps, however, he fears becoming a second incarnation of Webber, who after coming close to beating Vettel to the title in 2010 has since been utterly beaten by the successful German.

Some even believe in a 'conspiracy' at the energy drink-owned team, with Vettel getting preferential treatment and equipment. Undoubtedly, the relationship between Vettel and Webber has not been a friendly one.

"Everything that happened between Mark and Sebastian," Ricciardo insisted, "has nothing to do with me and nothing to do with next year."

He told Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper that nothing in his new contract makes him a 'number 2' driver.

Indeed, he said both his and Vettel's deal includes a clause that says one driver must support the other if the other is out of the fight for the title.

Theoretically, then, Vettel might have to ride shotgun for Ricciardo.

The Australian laughed: "Yes. If that's the case, it means I've had a very nice season!

"Obviously I know that is being very optimistic."

Hulkenberg 'not paid a penny' – Vettel
(GMM) Hanging onto his Sauber seat is perhaps now Nico Hulkenberg's only chance of staying in formula one beyond 2013.

Almost signed by Ferrari, and earlier linked to McLaren, the German has also come close to a move to Lotus for 2014.

The latter option now appears off the table, as the Enstone based team's finances falter and bosses look to the lucratively-backed Pastor Maldonado to plug the budget hole.

"Every career is different," Hulkenberg told F1's official website on Saturday, "and mine seems to be as it is now with a few different teams, with a bit of movement, with a bit of nail biting."

Indeed, after capturing pole in the 2010 finale as a rookie, Williams let Hulkenberg go — again because of Maldonado's millions.

"It definitely was a bad experience," he recalled, "how it all happened.

"Of course you then have that in the back of your mind and get more suspicious of what people tell you because I have been lied to, to my face."

Hulkenberg sat out 2011 as Force India's reserve driver, and returned to the grid last year. He then moved to Sauber for 2013, and to this date Force India still owes him money, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.

The Sauber story hasn't been much better for Hulkenberg, despite several occasions when his undoubted talent was able to shine through.

World champion and countryman Sebastian Vettel said it is a travesty Hulkenberg is yet again waiting to be paid.

"It's a shame he doesn't have a car (for 2014) yet," Vettel is quoted by DPA news agency, "because he is one of the fastest drivers in the field.

"It's a difficult time for some teams in F1," he added, "but also for some drivers. He (Hulkenberg) is yet to get a penny," Vettel claimed.

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber team boss, refused to comment on Vettel's assertion that Hulkenberg has not been paid at all in 2013.

"I do not feel compelled to comment on everything that is said in the paddock," she insisted.

The fact that Hulkenberg and Sauber do not want to get into a Raikkonen-Lotus-style spat could be a sign that the relationship will continue into 2014.

Hulkenberg confirmed that is a possibility.

"Yes," he said when asked if he can imagine staying at the Swiss team. And "I think so," the 26-year-old added when asked if Sauber can imagine keeping him.

"Why not? For now we are having a good go. The spirit is up."

McLaren to announce 2014 drivers soon – boss
(GMM) McLaren is racing towards confirming that Sergio Perez will join Jenson Button in the British team's driver lineup for a second consecutive season in 2014.

It was earlier rumored that Nico Hulkenberg, McLaren junior Kevin Magnussen or even Fernando Alonso could replace the Mexican, who only joined McLaren from Sauber at the beginning of the year.

But Perez finished a season-best fifth in India last Sunday, and paddock whispers are growing louder that the 23-year-old has secured a new deal for 2014.

"When will we make our driver announcement? I expect we will be making it quite shortly," team boss Martin Whitmarsh told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

"I think Sergio did a great race last week and that's the sort of thing that we love to see," he added.

It could be that Perez's new deal will be shortly followed by news that a Mexican company like Claro will succeed the departing Vodafone as title sponsor.

However, there has also been speculation that a brand not linked directly to Perez, like the US razor company Gillette, has secured the deal for 2014 and beyond.

Whitmarsh on Sunday said the driver and sponsor announcements will be made separately.

"That will be beyond the end of the season," he said, when asked about the sponsor announcement, "because obviously we're respectful of the partnerships we have at the moment."

Video: Two F1 drivers race the Renault Twizy
Just hours before the start of the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Formula 1 drivers Mark Webber and Charles Pic, who drive for the Renault-powered Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Caterham F1 Teams respectively, electrified the city of Dubai by ‘racing’ against each other in iconic electric-powered Renault TWIZYs.

The drivers powered down the roads of Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai, and Safa Park in TWIZY cars.

Mark Webber, who starts on pole for today’s race, said: “Driving down Dubai’s iconic roads and alleys was an amazing experience. What made it even more special was the fact that the TWIZY is a green car. The silence inside the vehicle was pretty impressive!"

Charles Pic said: “We enjoyed our time in the UAE, more so with the interesting Renault TWIZY. I had a pleasant drive in a 100% electric car, which could be the star car of the future. It was a great experience to drive the car in such a wonderful place."

Renault has teamed up with Formula 1 drivers Mark Webber and Charles Pic to make an original ad film featuring the Renault TWIZY race as part of an online promotional campaign launched from November.

Bernie: Door is open for India’s return
A deal has been done for India to return to the Formula One calendar in 2015 and for six years beyond that if tax problems with the country’s authorities can be overcome, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Saturday.

“The door is open for them," the Briton, who turned 83 on Monday, said at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “It’s all there. Done. That’s all done," he added when asked about a contract extension. “Just a case of the government sorting itself out."

The race, held at the Buddh International Circuit, has been dropped from the 2014 calendar with its future uncertain. Although some in the paddock fear it may be gone for good, organizers said last weekend that they were determined to complete the remaining two years of the existing contract in 2015 and 2016.

Indian motorsports chief Vicky Chandhok said last week that race promoter Sameer Gaur, of Jaypee Sports International (JPSI), was also speaking of a five-year extension. Ecclestone said a new deal had now been agreed.

The construction of the $400 million circuit, which drivers have hailed as one of the best recent additions to the calendar, and race promotion fees have been paid by private enterprise without government subsidy.

Problems over taxation, with Formula One being classified as entertainment rather than a sport, as well as the considerable bureaucracy to be overcome in bringing equipment into India have been cited as obstacles to the future of the race. Chandhok and Gaur said last week that talks would be sought with local and central government to resolve the issues.

Former F1 racer Karun Chandhok, son of Vicky, welcomed the development. “We are working really hard to make it happen," he said after talking to Ecclestone later in the paddock. “We had lots of great meetings last week (with Ecclestone’s people).

“There are things to be sorted out for the government but that’s more from the teams’ point of view. The tax implications are more affecting the teams and drivers than FOM (Formula One Management). Reuters

Interesting developments at Toro Rosso
One interesting side story of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend has been the growing influence of the local International Petroleum Investment Company on the Toro Rosso team.

This was symbolized over the weekend by the presence of a rallying message to Emiratis on the rear wing endplate of Jean Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo’s cars, “Kalluna Khalifa", which means “We are all Khalifa" – in other words a message designed to make the people in the region buy into the Abu Dhabi event and their presence in it as participants and reminding them that the eyes of the world are on Abu Dhabi this weekend via the global TV audience of around 200 million for the race. The message was unveiled at a lavish event in IPIC’s headquarters, hosted by SKY TV’s Martin Brundle on Wednesday.

“The grand prix here in Abu Dhabi is one of the highlights for Scuderia Toro Rosso because we have a very close business relationship with IPIC," Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said in the FIA press conference on Thursday.

It’s interesting because IPIC now has a powerful influence on the Toro Rosso team, with most of its non-Red Bull sponsorship income deriving from companies owned by the group: Nova, Falcon Bank and Spanish oil giant CEPSA. This latter one was very keen to have Carlos Sainz Jr into the seat to be vacated by Ricciardo next season. However Red Bull driver program director Helmut Marko won this particular battle to place Russian teenager Daniil Kvyat in the car. Kvyat clinched the GP3 championship here in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

The IPIC involvement is led by it’s boss Khadem Al Qubaisi, who has been a regular fixture at Grands Prix in recent years and informed paddock opinion sees this group becoming shareholders in a team soon, perhaps Toro Rosso, depending on Red Bull’s long term strategy for its junior team.

The group knows F1 well; IPIC owns Aabar, which was until recently a shareholder in the Mercedes F1 team.

It’s well worth keeping an eye on this group in the months and years ahead. JamesAllenOnF1.com

Kvyat to secure F1 super-license
Russian teenager Daniil Kvyat will test with Toro Rosso in Italy next week to secure a Formula One super-license so he can take part in practice for the last two races of the season, the team said.

Kvyat was named last month as a surprise choice to replace Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving up to world champions Red Bull, at the Italy-based team on the starting grid next year. Team principal Franz Tost said the team had a program to get the rookie, who must do a minimum of 300km over two days in a 2011 car to secure his license, ready for 2014.

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