Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Vettel 'walking it' at top of F1 tree – Hamilton
  • Boss says Ferrari's problem 'is not Domenicali'
  • Angry Force India says Pirelli made Sauber 'explode'
  • Force India worried about financial hit New
  • Lauda: Brawn's future '50/50' New

Vettel 'walking it' at top of F1 tree – Hamilton
(GMM) With Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull easing to the titles at a canter, the biggest remaining importance of 2013 is the lucrative battle for second in the constructors' championship.

A country mile behind the Red Bull juggernaut, grandee teams Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus are all separated by just over 30 points. Their battle is worth many millions in income distributed by F1's commercial rights holders.

At the centre of that battle is a figure like Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, but he has already turned his real attention beyond November's season finale.

Asked what he's looking forward to most in 2013 now, the Briton admitted in Japan: "Christmas."

For the fans, it's a similar story. Perhaps Vettel's march to all-time records will stimulate their interest.

For instance, the German has just won five grands prix on the trot. Not even the great Michael Schumacher won more than seven in a row.

If Vettel wins in India – sealing his title – and then Abu Dhabi, Austin and Interlagos, it will match Alberto Ascari's 60-year-old record.

He would also equal Schumacher's record haul of 13 wins in a single season.

Hamilton thinks he could do it.

"If he (Vettel) doesn't have any reliability issues, most likely (he will)," the Briton said. "He's just walking it."

And, like Hamilton's impatient wait for Christmas, Lotus boss Eric Boullier also gave a sickly smile when asked which of the remaining races he is targeting for a win.

"Winter testing!" the Frenchman replied.

Including 2013, Red Bull has won the last four drivers' and constructors' championships. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said on Sunday that success has been powered by "a lot of money".

"It's a very important factor," he added.

Boullier told Speed Week: "I would guess teams like Red Bull and Ferrari spend 250 to 300 million euros a year.

"At Marussia it's maybe 60 million, but to be competitive, you can hardly have less than 120 million."

But according to former Mercedes boss Norbert Haug, it's too simplistic to say Vettel is just driving the most expensive F1 car to easy victory in F1.

"He is clearly the best," he said on German television Blickpunkt Sport.

"He works the hardest, is involved the least in politics, he takes care of his mechanics.

"Even if you have the most money, the formula one title is not just mailed to you," Haug insisted.

Boss says Ferrari's problem 'is not Domenicali'
(GMM) Ferrari failed to beat Red Bull for a fourth consecutive time because of "two main factors", according to team boss Stefano Domenicali.

Speaking to the Spanish sports newspaper AS, the Italian denied he is the main problem.

"You wouldn't change Domenicali and win tomorrow," he insisted.

"Sure, my boss could do it, and if he does, I would always be grateful to Ferrari," said Domenicali.

"But in Italy there is a saying: 'When you leave the road you know, the other could be worse'.

"The problem is not Domenicali," he added. "Domenicali is the first to come to work in the morning and the last to leave.

"If we had won in 2012, Domenicali would be a phenomenon, he would have done his job well," he said.

Indeed, together with Fernando Alonso – whose patience may now be running out – Ferrari has come tantalizingly close to winning under the Domenicali reign.

Domenicali thinks the main problems in 2013 were technical ones.

"The first is that at the beginning of the season we had a car that was competitive in qualifying and very good in race pace.

"The problem is that we could not improve the car steadily, because unfortunately in some cases we brought developments that, instead of improving, actually worsened the car," he said.

Domenicali said Ferrari has been working hard to right that wrong, including by completely overhauling the Maranello wind tunnel, and installing technical bosses – James Allison and Pat Fry – who are renowned for success in F1's aerodynamically-focused era.

He explained that the second fundamental problem in 2013 has been Pirelli.

"I do not mention why or whether it was right or not, but in changing the tire type we have not been able to exploit the best feature we had — our competitive race pace," said Domenicali.

He also said that, despite coming so close in some years, not winning in the end had now increased the pressure on Ferrari to fever-pitch.

That has now resulted in the Alonso exit rumors, and "general criticism" that Domenicali thinks makes little sense.

"Like when it comes to the drivers," he said, "many times I've read in the past 'Ferrari has to change Felipe (Massa)'.

"But now I read 'Felipe has to stay!' Which is it? A little rationality, please," Domenicali insisted.

"I'm the first to defend Felipe and I always will, because he is a special lad, someone dedicated to the team, but you have to make a professional assessment," he added.

Angry Force India says Pirelli made Sauber 'explode'
(GMM) Force India has hit back at claims it is being outclassed by Sauber at the tail end of the 2013 season.

When the season began, Nico Hulkenberg looked to have made a grave error in moving over the winter from consistent Force India to new tail-ender Sauber.

But at the end of 2013, the German is a sensation of 2013, reportedly courted not only by Lotus but also Ferrari and McLaren.

Not only that, Esteban Gutierrez – the languishing Mexican rookie who couldn't score a point – has spectacularly turned the corner with the suddenly-competitive C31.

"Something in him exploded," Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said in Japan, where Gutierrez finally scored his first points of 2013.

Kaltenborn warned, however, that it might not be enough to safeguard the 22-year-old's future — as Kamui Kobayashi knows well after his Suzuka podium a year ago.

"Individual results are not decisive for us," she told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, "when it comes to planning the future.

"We have some options but we're not going to name names," added Kaltenborn.

According to championship rival Force India's sporting director Otmar Szafnauer, Kaltenborn knows well that the real sensation was not Gutierrez, or the formerly-struggling Swiss-made car.

The battle for sixth place in the constructors' championship is worth millions, and crucial to midfield teams like Force India and Sauber.

So Szafnauer is angry that the decisive factor has been Pirelli.

"This is no wonder-Sauber," he is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick. "It's only Pirelli.

"It is the whole explanation for the current situation," said Szafnauer, referring to how Pirelli's mid-season tire specification switch badly hurt some teams like Force India, whilst giving a big boost to others.

Force India worried about financial hit
Force India know they need to get out of their current slump if they don't want to suffer a major financial setback.

After challenging McLaren for fifth place in the Constructors' Championship during the early stages of the season, the Silverstone squad have gone off the boil since Pirelli made changes to their tires.

They are now sixth in the standings and have Sauber breathing down their neck after Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta picked up only three points between them in the last seven races.

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley warns that losing out on sixth place will cost them dearly in terms of financial payouts from prize money.

"The difficulty for us is we are still off the pace of where we were," he told Press Association Sport.

"That is opening up the door for Sauber who have had some very strong races, and now we are really looking over our shoulder.

"I know everybody thinks it's easy, but once these results start to come in, the traction you get is considerable.

"Most of the gaps in prize money (in the Constructors') are between £3.5million to £4million, but unfortunately the gap between sixth and seventh is more like £6million to £7million.

"So it's a big hit, not one we want to be taking."

Force India are currently 17 points ahead of Sauber, who are on a good point-scoring run the moment, and Fernley hopes they can maintain that gap in the final four races of the season.

"We can chip away at where we are to try to get back into the points, and we're almost there," he said.

"We just have to try and find a little bit more. If we can get that extra tenth (of a second) or two then it allows us to compete, but whether it will be enough to compete with Sauber, I'm not sure.

"But then it wasn't a good day for the top teams – Lewis (Hamilton) retired, (Nico) Rosberg had a drive-through (penalty) – so that automatically propels people up.

"To a certain degree we need the top teams to stay where they are." PlanetF1

Lauda: Brawn's future '50/50'
Non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has admitted that Ross Brawn's future at Mercedes is in the balance, stating that it is currently 50/50 as to whether the team principal will stay next year.

Reports earlier this month suggested that Brawn could be set to leave the Brackley-based team to be reunited with Honda at McLaren, while he has also been linked with Williams in recent months.

Brawn's future has been the centre of much speculation this year after both Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe joined Mercedes, with Lowe being viewed by many as the long-term replacement for one of the most successful designers in recent F1 history.

Speaking the Mirror, Lauda revealed he was keen to keep Brawn with the team for 2014, but said the ball was in his court as to what decision he takes.

"It's down to him now," he told Mirror Sport. "I'd say it's 50-50.
"We have had some small problems in the team in the past but everything is sorted now. It's all agreed between him and Paddy and everyone else.

“He's number one. I have tried to persuade him to stay. I want him to stay. We will talk again at the end of the season."

According to the report, sources have suggested that Brawn could elect to walk away from F1 altogether rather than seek opportunities elsewhere.

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