Latest F1 news in brief – Friday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

Vettel ready to beat any teammate


  • 2014 absence for India 'not good' – Stewart
  • Sauber bailout collapse fears 'not worth a denial'
  • Lotus denies unpaid staff warning of strike
  • Red Bull also leads pitstop race in 2013
  • Grosjean celebrates summer break as new father
  • Vettel not influencing team-mate decision New
  • Brawn fearful of extended calendar New
  • Sauber boss admits delay in rescue deal New

2014 absence for India 'not good' – Stewart
(GMM) Sitting out next year's F1 calendar is "not a good message" being sent by organizers of the Indian grand prix.

That is the warning of triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, following news India will not host a race next year before returning to F1 in 2015.

Amid the undoubted tax and customs issues, and the pressure on F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to limit the calendar to 20 races next year, Indian organizers insist missing 2014 is simply "a scheduling matter".

"These kinds of adjustments take place all the time," said a spokesman for organizers Jaypee.

He explained that Ecclestone offered India a March date on the 2014 calendar, but with this year's race taking place in October, the two races would have taken place too closely together.

"We were then given the option of holding it in March in subsequent years," said the spokesman.

But Stewart, a veteran figure in the F1 paddock for almost five decades, indicated he thinks the real issue is about tax and customs.

"F1 has been able to handle the issue in every other country we go to — whether it's Hungary, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia or China," the 74-year-old told the India-Asian News Service.

And Stewart said the situation, culminating in India skipping at least the 2014 schedule, could hurt the country's F1 foray.

"It is certainly not a good message the Indian grand prix is sending out to the motor sports world, and is not positive for India's image when questions are raised about it," he said.

Not only that, spectator numbers dropped from 95,000 for the inaugural race in 2011 to just 60,000 last year. And after October's race, 16 months will pass before India hosts the next grand prix.

"This year's race is crucial," Stewart agreed, "and if the race in 2015 gets the right promotion, there's no reason why it shouldn't again attract large crowds."

Sauber bailout collapse fears 'not worth a denial'
(GMM) Leading figures of Sauber's Russian rescue deal have played down reports of a delay that means vital money is not yet flowing to the embattled Swiss team.

The German newspaper Die Welt claimed this week that Russian president Vladimir Putin is stalling over the final signature.

Sauber could, therefore, still run off the road because Ferrari is reportedly threatening to cut off its supply of customer V8 engines if a EUR 9 million bill is not paid imminently.

Central to the entire Russian deal is the scheduled debut of teenage Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, and his manager Nikolay Vetrov confirmed the holdup.

"Yes, we have not had time to implement the whole of the planned ambitious program," he told the website, "but otherwise everything is going according to plan.

"I just spoke with (team boss) Mrs. (Monisha) Kaltenborn, and she said, literally, that this (Die Welt) article is not even worthy of a comment," added Vetrov.

"There is no doubting the realism of these plans."

17-year-old Sirotkin's father Oleg is also closely involved in the Sauber deal, as director-general of the National Institute of Aviation Technologies.

He also confirmed the delay in the Sauber deal.

"Indeed, we are still in the implementation phase of our agreement of intent," he said. "We are preparing all the relevant documents, and it takes quite a long time.

"We have a plan, we're moving on it, we are somewhat behind in some areas, somewhat ahead in others.

"What I would say is that this procedure is more technical than political. In general, we do not see any big problems, but there will be a slight shift in the timing.

"Of course, I want everything to happen tomorrow, but we need patience on all sides and everything will be fine — that's my point of view."

When asked by Blick newspaper about the Die Welt report, Sauber spokesman Hanspeter Brack answered: "There are some articles that are not even worth the denial."

Lotus denies unpaid staff warning of strike
(GMM) Lotus has played down reports the Enstone based team is struggling to survive financially amid crippling debts.

It was already known that the team's highest-paid member, lead driver Kimi Raikkonen, is waiting on his latest pay installment.

And reports in the German press said other unpaid staff at Enstone are threatening to lay down their tools, while spare parts are running low because suppliers are also waiting for invoices to be paid.

35 per cent of the Genii-owned team was sold recently to a consortium called Infinity Racing, but it subsequently emerged that the deal is still not actually done.

"There may be some delays," team boss Eric Boullier admitted this week, "but it will be repaired within a few days.

"The package that ensures the future of the company is completed slowly, but we'll get there," he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

Meanwhile, the Spanish sports newspaper Marca said Lotus has officially denied that team members have not been paid and are therefore threatening to strike.

Red Bull also leads pitstop race in 2013
(GMM) Red Bull is leading not only the drivers' and constructors' championships in 2013, its pit crew is also the fastest in formula one.

That is the finding of Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, reporting that the average pitstop for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber so far this year took just 2.83 seconds.

"In the second half of last year we were on average three tenths faster than Red Bull," McLaren sporting director Sam Michael is quoted as saying.

"Now it's the other way around."

Indeed, Ferrari is in second place with an average time of 2.9 seconds, followed by Mercedes at 3.06 seconds.

Auto Motor und Sport said Red Bull has also recorded every one of the top five fastest pitstops of the season so far, headed by Webber's 2.13 second stop in Malaysia.

Mercedes, however, thinks it can go even faster than that.

"We did a practice stop at the Nurburgring in 1.6 seconds," said sporting director Ron Meadows.

"But, of course, practice lacks the tension of an actual stop during the race," he acknowledged.

In fact, the speed of pitstops looks set to dip in the second half of the season.

After Webber's flying wheel struck a cameraman in the Nurburgring pitlane, the FIA is preparing to introduce a system where a backup row of pins on the wheel nuts will ensure a loose wheel cannot fly off a car.

Auto Motor und Sport said Red Bull voluntarily trialed the system in Hungary, which promptly cost Webber and Vettel an average of half a second per stop.

Grosjean celebrates summer break as new father
(GMM) Romain Grosjean is celebrating F1's August break as a new father.

The Lotus driver, whose wife Marion Jolles met 27-year-old Grosjean as a F1 reporter for French television TF1, confirmed the happy news this week.

"Our son Sacha was born on the 29th of July," he said on Twitter, referring to the very day after he finished sixth in the Hungarian grand prix.

After a wave of up and down form in 2013, Grosjean also qualified a season-best third in Hungary, while many applauded his feisty racing on Sunday.

Asked to name a highlight of 2013, he said: "Well, I would like to say the pass on Felipe (Massa) in Budapest, which at the time I thought may have been the best of my career so far, but of course with the penalty I suppose it's not the same.

"After our performance in the last few races, I honestly believe my first win is now just around the corner," Grosjean added.

Indeed, while earlier it was believed Grosjean's erratic form might cost him his race seat, boss Eric Boullier thinks Lotus has "a future contender for titles" on its hands now.

"It gives me great pleasure to see him learn from those (bad) experiences and to really start delivering the kind of results we've always known he is capable of," he said after Hungary.

"He knows that if he wants to be winning races and fighting for championships then he must deliver this kind of quality drive at every grand prix," Boullier added.

As for his wife and his newly-born son, Frenchman Grosjean told his 165,000 Twitter followers that "All the family is doing very well".

Vettel not influencing team-mate decision
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has made clear that reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel would be comfortable racing alongside any driver next season.

Following Mark Webber's decision to leave the sport in favor of the World Endurance Championship with Porsche, the battle to secure his seat has been growing, with Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo the main options.

But although doubts have been cast over Vettel's willingness to go up against certain members of the grid, Horner insists the German has had little influence on the matter.

"I don't think he minds to be honest," explained Horner, when asked of Vettel's driver preference. "I don't think Sebastian has any concerns about going up against any driver, and he hasn't voiced a preference either way. He knows Kimi, he knows Daniel.

"Both are very quick drivers and would represent a challenge for him, but he has not looked to influence the team in any way as to which way we should be looking."

Horner added that both Räikkönen and Ricciardo are "extremely good options" for the outfit, with an announcement expected to arrive before next month's Italian Grand Prix.

"We obviously want the two fastest and strongest drivers we can put in the car for next year," said Horner. "Both Daniel and Kimi would represent extremely good options."

Brawn fearful of extended calendar
Ross Brawn has long stated his desire to keep Formula One's calendar in check despite the arrival of new venues virtually ever year over the past decade.

For next season there could be three new events, with Russia and New Jersey poised to make their debuts – although doubts remain over the latter – and with Austria to return after an 11-year absence.

With India off the agenda for next season – albeit for one year only as supremo Bernie Ecclestone reshuffles the races for 2015 – there may be 21 grands prix in 2014.

Brawn, however, is fearful of the demands being placed on his race team and said: "Twenty races is pretty challenging for the teams with one crew of people.

"I think you reach a need point that when you go beyond it you have to start looking at rotating people, rotating crews.

"That's gets very difficult, particularly with the engineers because they are very closely linked with their drivers.

"That's not an easy thing, but with some of the technicians and mechanics and so on we can do that.

"But 20 races is pretty intense for everyone. One more is only five per cent more; two is only ten per cent more.

"But it really does start to get difficult to manage, so I think 20 is a sensible limit."

Sauber boss admits delay in rescue deal
Monisha Kaltenborn has admitted Sauber's Russian rescue deal is facing delays.

Despite reports of an enormous investment in the struggling Swiss team by Russian government-linked entities, we reported recently that the money is yet to start flowing.

Sauber's financial crisis, therefore, may not yet be over, with the German newspaper Welt reporting that Ferrari's ultimatum of a EUR 9 million engine supply bill being paid by the end of the August break is still in effect.

It is suggested the entire Sauber deal has to be signed off by none other than Russian president Vladimir Putin, and as yet he not done so.

Team boss Kaltenborn has admitted a delay.

Welt quoted her as saying it is only because of "bureaucratic obstacles and complex questions of detail", and did not elaborate.

Another German newspaper, Bild-Zeitung, reports that Kaltenborn and team founder Peter Sauber have kicked off their August 'break' with a trip to Moscow.

Correspondents Nicola Pohl, Frank Schneider and Helmut Uhl said the Sauber chiefs' visit to Russia is to "sign contracts with potential sponsors", because "no money is yet to flow" from the country in northern Eurasia.

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