F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Will Vettel finally marry his high school sweetheart Hanna Prater?

    Raikkonen a no-show in Abu Dhabi

  • Mercedes can find 'better' boss than Brawn – Hamilton
  • Webber admits Ferrari switch was 'very close'
  • 2012 alternator gremlin not returned – Renault
  • Horner denies Newey era set to end
  • De la Rosa ready to replace ill Hulkenberg
  • Vettel could marry girlfriend Hanna
  • Perez 'deserves' McLaren seat in 2014 – Button
  • FIA 'crazy' to penalize Vettel donuts – Hamilton
  • Massa admits Interlagos could be career finale
  • Sutil smiles as 2014 seat now secure
  • Raikkonen arrives in Abu Dhabi for practice New

Raikkonen a no-show in Abu Dhabi
(GMM) Amid reports Kimi Raikkonen's relationship with Lotus was broken irreparably in India, the Finn did not show up in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

The team distributed its usual Thursday press release containing links to audio interviews with the title 'Loud and clear'.

Indeed, many wondered if Raikkonen's absence, although not totally unusual on a Thursday, was a message to the team that he more than didn't appreciate being sworn at on the radio last weekend.

Some correspondents in the Abu Dhabi paddock on Thursday believe Raikkonen even threatened to sit out this race altogether.

The Mirror newspaper said "sources" had confirmed that Raikkonen, who is moving to Ferrari next year, was "so insulted he briefly considered" staying home in Switzerland.

But a team spokesman late on Thursday said the Finn is "on his way" to Abu Dhabi and "expected to turn up" for Friday practice.

It must be noted, however, that Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, the 2012 GP2 champion, was at the Yas Marina circuit on Thursday.

2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, however, said Raikkonen was justified in being angry.

Asked by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3 how he would have responded if his engineer shouted and swore at him on the radio, he admitted: "Probably the same as he (Raikkonen) did."

Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, admitted that his relationship with Raikkonen has gone downhill "recently".

"As a man, I would say basically I don't know him," said the Frenchman.

"He is with me as he is with you (reporters). As a driver, he's very good and he has been – until recently – a very good teammate."

Also in Abu Dhabi, Fernando Alonso denied once again that his relationship with Ferrari has deteriorated in 2013.

"Every weekend I repeat the same thing," said the Spaniard.

"It (the relationship) was perfect, it is perfect and it will be perfect," Alonso insisted.

Mercedes can find 'better' boss than Brawn – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes will thrive even without Ross Brawn.

Although team boss Brawn has not confirmed speculation he is set to hand over to Paddy Lowe, the 2008 world champion said in Abu Dhabi he is confident about next year's campaign with the Brackley based team "either way".

Hamilton admitted recently Brawn's presence had been a big part of his decision to leave McLaren at the end of last year, but on Thursday he insisted: "Ross wasn't the only thing I came here for".

"He was the one that came and showed me the progress that the team was making and the direction in which they were going," said the Briton. "But that would be the position of any boss who would have done that."

Hamilton said that while there is "no one (in F1) like Adrian Newey", someone like Brawn might be more replaceable.

"Maybe, maybe not," he said.

"People said there would never be another Michael Schumacher but there is Sebastian (Vettel) now.

"There is going to be someone out there who can do the same or better and they just haven't had the chance," added Hamilton.

Interestingly, it was left to a driver outside the Mercedes camp – McLaren's Jenson Button – to suggest that Brawn is "the perfect guy" for the team.

"For me it is clear that we will still see a lot of him in the future," said Button, who won his title in 2009 at the Brackley based team with 'Brawn GP' branding.

58-year-old Briton Brawn has been linked with a move to McLaren's 2015 works engine supplier, Honda.

Button said: "I am very surprised that they (Mercedes) are letting him go at all as for me he is the perfect guy to run a team."

Webber admits Ferrari switch was 'very close'
(GMM) Mark Webber has admitted he came "very close" to ending his career in a Ferrari.

"So close," he is quoted by Speed Week in the Abu Dhabi paddock, "that I had to take the phone in my hand and call (Red Bull team owner) Dietrich Mateschitz."

Webber, who will leave F1 and switch to Le Mans for 2014 after this month's Brazilian grand prix, is referring to last season, when Ferrari was on the market to replace Felipe Massa.

"We couldn't find an agreement with Ferrari," said the Australian, "or I'd be sitting right now in Felipe Massa's car — also in 2014," he revealed.

"I had set myself a deadline and on the Thursday before Canada last year I made the decision to stay another year with Red Bull," said Webber.

In the end, Webber says he will walk out of the Interlagos paddock late this month with his head held high, happy with his F1 career even though he missed the world title.

"It was not meant to be," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, "but it was a proud and honest career.

"I see myself on par with the one-time champions," said Webber. "Am I a potential multiple champion? The answer is clearly not," he admitted.

Webber therefore admits that his teammate Sebastian Vettel, with whom he has shared a tense tenure at Red Bull, is better.

"Seb is exceptional," he said, "and I have no problem admitting it.

"In some ways I feel like Gerhard Berger with Ayrton Senna — Gerhard was also a great racer, but not enough for the title."

2012 alternator gremlin not returned – Renault
(GMM) Red Bull designer Adrian Newey this week said he didn't know if the team's alternator problems of 2012 have now resurfaced.

After Mark Webber's retirement in India, obvious questions were being asked about whether the same constant problems of last year had come back.

"The problem with Mark had nothing to do with the events of 2012," engine supplier Renault's Remi Taffin told Auto Motor und Sport.

He said the exact cause is not yet known.

"Either the alternator came from a faulty series, or there was a problem with the installation," he added.

Taffin said Webber's Renault engine mercifully survived the problem. But the V8 unit in Lotus driver Romain Grosjean's car was not so lucky.

Grosjean had a storming drive to the podium in India, but Auto Motor und Sport said that if the race had been two laps longer, the Frenchman would have retired as the engine was losing air.

Red Bull's Webber, meanwhile, laughed with resignation at his retirement last week in India, and shrugged on Thursday when contemplating his long run of bad luck.

"A lot of results have slipped through the net, but that's the way it's been, for whatever reason," he said.

Horner denies Newey era set to end
(GMM) After two aerodynamic deputies signed to switch to McLaren, Red Bull's Christian Horner has played down suggestions the Adrian Newey era is coming to an end altogether.

Newey, undisputedly the greatest designer in the paddock, has been linked with a switch from aerodynamics to hydrodynamics and a tilt at penning an America's Cup yacht.

His boss Horner, however, played down those stories.

"Adrian has always expressed an interest in the America's Cup since the McLaren days," he said.

"But he thoroughly enjoys what he is doing at the moment, he is in the halcyon period of his personal career and he enjoys the environment he is working in."

No matter what happens beyond 2014, 54-year-old Briton Newey remains committed to his next Red Bull, which in Sebastian Vettel's hands could deliver the team and the German a fifth consecutive championship triumph.

"It has been a great ride," Newey is quoted by AFP news agency.

"Next year is a huge challenge with the regulation changes so at the moment I'm fully focused on that."

De la Rosa ready to replace ill Hulkenberg
(GMM) Pedro de la Rosa is poised to fill in at Sauber, should Nico Hulkenberg not recover from a bout of 'Delhi belly'.

Reports by the Spanish sports newspapers AS and Marca say former team driver de la Rosa, now the Ferrari reserve, is first in line for the Abu Dhabi seat, after Hulkenberg spent all of Thursday unwell in his hotel.

"I don't know about this particular case," de la Rosa told AS correspondent Manuel Franco.

"But it is true that there is a sort of agreement that if anything would ever happen that there is this important relationship between Sauber and Ferrari for the engines.

"But in this case, no one has spoken to me," the 42-year-old added.

Asked if de la Rosa is on standby, a Sauber spokesman said: "If he (Hulkenberg) doesn't recover, then we would have to look at other solutions.

"But we hope that he is well for practice on Friday."

Vettel could marry girlfriend Hanna
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel could marry his long-term girlfriend Hanna Prater.

The Cologne tabloid Express quoted the German, who last weekend dedicated his fourth title to his girlfriend, as admitting that wedding bells might soon chime.

"We'll think about it," Vettel reportedly said.

It is believed the 26-year-old Red Bull driver, who returned home to Switzerland after winning in India, has brought Hanna with him to Abu Dhabi, even though he is rarely accompanied to grands prix by his girlfriend.

The pair met at school in their native Heppenheim.

Perez 'deserves' McLaren seat in 2014 – Button
(GMM) Sergio Perez "deserves" a second season with McLaren, lead driver Jenson Button insists.

Amid wild rumors linking Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with a return to the British team, McLaren is yet to confirm 23-year-old Mexican Perez's seat for 2014.

Sporting director Sam Michael said in a teleconference on Thursday: "Checo's pushing very hard at the moment, staying focused, he's driving well, working well with the engineers and ultimately that's what we expect him to do."

McLaren has said sticking with Button and Perez for next season – the famous team's last with Mercedes power before switching to Honda – is the most likely scenario.

"He deserves to be here next year," Briton Button is quoted by F1's official website.

"He is very quick, has good pace and he proved that all weekend in India.

"For the whole team it was a very promising weekend, even more so for Checo and his future in the team."

Indeed, Perez's fifth place finish in India was his best result of the season, but the Mexican denies it has guaranteed his place for 2014.

"I don't think so, because in a team like McLaren, decisions are not made on the basis of one race," he is quoted by f1news.ru.

Perez said any questions about his future should be directed to team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

FIA 'crazy' to penalize Vettel donuts – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton was surprised when he heard that, after winning a fourth title in India last Sunday, Sebastian Vettel was penalized.

"He was reprimanded?" the Mercedes driver told reporters in Abu Dhabi, according to Brazil's Totalrace.

"Are you serious? That's crazy!"

Indeed, Vettel spent some of his first moments as a quadruple world champion in the FIA stewards office, because his celebratory 'donuts' broke the strict post-race parc ferme rules.

Red Bull was also fined EUR 25,000.

But "The fans loved it," Hamilton insisted. "It didn't hurt anyone, it wasn't dangerous — I saw it on the screen and the fans were going crazy.

"It was very cool to see," he added.

It might be said that Red Bull put two fingers up to the FIA's reaction this week when former team driver David Coulthard did donuts in a Red Bull some 210 meters in the air, atop the Burj Al Arab helipad in Dubai.

Team boss Christian Horner said the FIA needs to rethink its strict rules.

"I think the stewards perhaps need to be empowered to give a little more leniency in extraordinary circumstances," he said in Abu Dhabi.

Massa admits Interlagos could be career finale
(GMM) Felipe Massa has admitted he might have entered his final month as a formula one driver.

With Pastor Maldonado on pole position to take his PDVSA backing to Lotus for 2014, Massa is tipped as the frontrunner to replace him at Williams, reportedly with the support of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras in tow.

Massa, who is being replaced at Ferrari for 2014 by Kimi Raikkonen, said he hopes he has a deal in place by the season finale at Interlagos — his beloved home race.

"I will not accept racing in Brazil with nothing in place for the next year without having a happy ending to my career," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

The 32-year-old Sao Paulista, however, said he is confident his race will go on.

"I have never lost sleep thinking about what will happen next," said Massa.

"I'm calm, just as I was when there was the announcement that I will not continue at Ferrari.

"I believe that something will happen and I'll find a good team for my future," he added.

Sutil smiles as 2014 seat now secure
(GMM) Adrian Sutil has announced in Abu Dhabi that his formula one career will race on beyond this month's Brazil finale.

It is believed that, thanks to his solid return to F1 this year and the backing of the German computer company Medion, Force India has elected to retain the 30-year-old.

"I know where I'll be," the German is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace, "but I can't talk about it right now.

"It should not take too long," Sutil added on Thursday, "but we're almost in November, so I can say in a week or two.

"But the important thing is that I know," he said.

Asked if he is happy with his plans for 2014, Sutil smiled broadly and added: "Look at my face."

At the same time, the future of Sutil's current teammate Paul di Resta is much more uncertain, amid reports Max Chilton could switch his lucrative Aon backing from Marussia.

"I don't think I'm worried about it," Scot di Resta is quoted by the PA Sport news agency.

"At the end of the day I think I have had some remarkable results this year but I think it is just unfortunately a difficult time at the moment.

"I think they (Force India) said they would give an impression after India. I would certainly like to think there would be a decision before (December)," he added.

Raikkonen arrives in Abu Dhabi for practice
(GMM) As Kimi Raikkonen finally turned up in Abu Dhabi to practice for Sunday's Abu Dhabi grand prix, Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez on Friday insisted the relationship with the taciturn Finn remains intact.

Some interpreted the Ferrari-bound Raikkonen's 'no show' on Thursday, mere days after an obscene radio spat with Alan Permane, as a sign his relationship with the Enstone based team is now irreparably broken with three races left to run.

But in an interview posted on the Lotus website early on Friday, team owner Lopez insists the relationship with Raikkonen is still "good".

"Of course, a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship," he said.

Lopez said Raikkonen, despite his cold relationship with the media, is actually "friendly" and "talkative" behind closed doors, and is his "friend".

He admitted, however, that Raikkonen decided to switch to Ferrari for 2014 because Lotus has been waiting on a much-needed 35 per cent sale to a group called 'Quantum' to be finalized.

It has been rumored the deal has fallen over, but Lopez said on Friday: "We have preliminary agreements with the company we want to partner with, and we're just waiting for this to be concluded.

"Deals like this do not move at the speed we're used to in formula one and we're hopeful that we'll conclude it in the near future," he added.

Meanwhile, after also sitting out Thursday's events at Yas Marina with a stomach complaint, Nico Hulkenberg was fit enough to take to the wheel of his Sauber for Friday practice.