Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Button doesn't credit Lowe

    Lowe exit not cause of McLaren crisis – Button

  • 'Most teams' have 2014 deals with Pirelli – report
  • Valencia surprised Barcelona selling 2014 tickets
  • Hamilton yet to mend broken friendship – Sutil
  • Ferrari 'disappointed' to be dragged into Mercedes defense
  • Kubica insists no plans for F1 test return
  • 2014 might not be close title battle – FIA's Blash
  • Pic 'waiting' for 2014 Caterham-Renault contract

Lowe exit not cause of McLaren crisis – Button
(GMM) Jenson Button has denied the absence of former technical director Paddy Lowe explains McLaren's struggle in 2013.

Before starting work at Mercedes a few weeks ago, the highly rated Lowe was on 'gardening leave' from his duties at McLaren.

Could that explain McLaren's slump in 2013, or the difficulties the Woking based team has faced in solving the MP4-28's problems?

"I don't think so," Button told British reporters ahead of his and McLaren's home grand prix at Silverstone.

"Paddy is a great guy, but I don't think one individual is the reason we are not performing. Our mistake was at the end of last year, when we decided to go the way we did with the car.

"Trying to find your way back from that is so, so difficult."

Throughout the McLaren crisis, it has been constantly suggested that the team should identify those responsible and fire them.

Button doesn't agree.

"For the drivers or any of the management to come out and say 'Right, it's this guy's fault, let's fire him' is the wrong attitude.

"You are going to scare people, and maybe go in the wrong direction," he said.

"It's not one person's problem."

Button said that also goes for the man right at the top of the McLaren tree, team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

"He is a massive part of this team," he insisted. "It is so tough for him at the moment, it really is.

"He is not going to point the finger, he will take the blame. I really like that about Martin -– I think he is a really good leader," said Button.

'Most teams' have 2014 deals with Pirelli – report
(GMM) Most formula one teams have deals in place with Pirelli beyond 2013, according to a respected correspondent.

Bernie Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt last week that the organization he leads – commercial rights holder Formula One Management – has "a contract with Pirelli for next year".

But the F1 chief executive added: "Pirelli haven't got an agreement with the FIA (for 2014)."

Now, Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary is reporting not only Ecclestone's 2014 deal with Pirelli, but also that "long-term deals" between Pirelli and "most of the teams" beyond this year are now in place.

But Pirelli "still do not have a contract in place with the FIA to supply tires next year", he said.

Cary said the situation is adding to Pirelli's frustration in F1, where it is facing criticism of its tires, resistance from the teams for technical changes, and a lack of cooperation for the use of representative test cars and tracks.

And Pirelli's latest frustration is the 'tire-gate' saga, with Cary saying "senior figures" at the marque "are understood to be furious" to have been reprimanded by the international tribunal for testing with Mercedes' 2013 car last month.

Cary added: "There are constant rumors that Michelin may be waiting in the wings, with FIA president Jean Todt having sided with the French manufacturer three years ago when Pirelli were given the contract."

He said the FIA has not launched a new tender to replace Pirelli, but believes that "if Todt looks elsewhere at this late stage or uses the reprimand in any way to undermine Pirelli, the Italian manufacturer is ready to go to the civil courts".

At the same time, Pirelli is making it clear that, unless it is able to test properly in the future, its patience with F1 is on the verge of running out.

"You know, going to Barcelona to test with frost on your windshield in the morning is – to be honest – ridiculous," Paul Hembery has told Montreal radio FM 103.3.

"If one of my engineers suggested we go testing in Barcelona in February, we would show him the door," he added.

"We are here in formula one, it is an international, high-level discipline, and we need to conduct representative tests."

There are signs F1 is making some changes to accommodate Pirelli, including some earlier testing next year and suggestions some winter running will take place in the Middle East.

"We plan to go to Abu Dhabi and Bahrain in December," Hembery revealed, "but we're not sure with what car.

"It could be with the 2010 Renault or with a classic F1 car — I don't know," he added sarcastically.

Valencia surprised Barcelona selling 2014 tickets
(GMM) Valencia's regional government has expressed surprise at news Barcelona is selling tickets for the 2014 Spanish grand prix.

It had been reported that regional presidents Alberto Fabra (Valencia) and Artur Mas (Catalunya) had agreed to annually alternate the hosting of a single annual Spanish F1 race, starting with Valencia in 2014.

But EFE news agency reports that tickets for a 2014 Spanish grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya are now being sold.

"In principle the alternating agreement is still alive and in force," said Valencia vice president, Jose Ciscar.

"The verbal agreement between Mr. Fabra and Mr. Mas is to be met, and I do not have the slightest doubt that the Catalan government will comply," he added.

As for why Barcelona is selling tickets for 2014, Ciscar answered: "If they are doing that, you will have to ask Catalunya as to why."

He admitted, however, that an actual contract to formalize the Valencia-Barcelona alternation is not yet signed, because negotiations with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone are still taking place regarding the race fee.

Hamilton yet to mend broken friendship – Sutil
(GMM) Adrian Sutil insists his friendship with Lewis Hamilton remains broken.

That is despite the 2008 world champion saying at Monaco a month ago that he wanted to "get together" with German Sutil and become "good friends" once again.

The pair, close friends since their days in F3, split acrimoniously in 2011 when Hamilton refused to appear as a witness in Force India driver Sutil's criminal trial for assault.

But when asked if they had indeed put their friendship back together, Sutil told the Kolner Express newspaper: "He said in Monaco that he wanted to return to having a reasonable relationship.

"But since then there hasn't been anything," added Sutil.

"If he does something, we will discuss what there is to discuss," the 30-year-old continued. "But it will remain private."

Sutil said he had learned lessons from the events of the past couple of years, including who his real friends are.

"There are always disappointments in life," he said, "but you learn from them, like finding out who are the people who are really sincere.

"I have no problem if someone says to me 'I don't like you'. At least that's honest."

Returning to the issue of Hamilton, Sutil was asked about the Mercedes driver's apparent claim that he is among the very best in formula one.

"If you say you're the best," Sutil said, "it's the beginning of the end. Because if you believe that, you stop working on yourself.

"No one is perfect," he added. "Is he (Hamilton) the best? He was world champion, but that was some years ago.

"Who is the best? Sebastian Vettel — he was world champion three times in a row and he's still going.

"What Sebastian is doing now is probably more difficult than it is to do it (win the title) for the first time," said Sutil.

Ferrari 'disappointed' to be dragged into Mercedes defense
(GMM) Ferrari has admitted it is "disappointed" to have been used as part of Mercedes' defense as the German team escaped from the test-gate scandal with a light penalty.

Before the judges ruled that Mercedes be only reprimanded and banned from next month's young drivers test, its lawyer argued extensively at the international tribunal that Ferrari also did the wrong thing with recent private tire tests.

Indeed, it emerged from last week's proceedings that while Ferrari used a 2011 car for its Pirelli tests, race driver Felipe Massa had been in action.

A Ferrari spokesman told Sport Bild that Mercedes' defense "disappointed" the Maranello team.

"It was unfortunate that we became the object of their defense in this way," a spokesman is also quoted by the German newspaper Bild.

More widely, the world of F1 is viewing Mercedes' penalties as overly light, particularly as the Brackley based camp is so happy with the outcome.

"The judgment is appropriate; indeed, the court largely followed the suggestion of our lawyer," motor sport director Toto Wolff, referring to Mercedes' offer to sit out the Silverstone tests, told DPA news agency.

He denied that boss Ross Brawn's position was ever in doubt.

"Ross is an important part of our team," said Wolff. "Now we can all get back to work."

Just before the hearing, Wolff's colleague Niki Lauda suggested that he had almost brokered an out-of-court peace deal, only for Mercedes chiefs to reject it.

"All sorts of things were discussed," Wolff admitted, "but in the end we chose to go the transparent way, with the assistance of Stuttgart, that everything is clear and harmonious."

Nonetheless, there are rumors Mercedes indeed 'did a deal' that would satisfy the FIA in terms of the rules breach but keep the German carmaker on the grid.

"Some," agreed Der Spiegel correspondent Ralf Bach, "have the feeling that the FIA negotiated a deal with Mercedes."

Indeed, former F1 boss Colin Kolles called the light penalty "inexplicable", and the world's press largely agreed.

Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport said the verdict is "a joke" and "ridiculous", while even Germany's Bild and Auto Motor und Sport described it as "wishy washy" and "surprisingly lenient".

Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for Switzerland's Blick, wondered if the judgment was light "because they feared Mercedes' withdrawal".

"Without Mercedes, formula one would be a disaster — next year they're also supplying Williams, Force India and McLaren with the new turbo engines", he added.

Kubica insists no plans for F1 test return
(GMM) Robert Kubica insists he is not pushing for a formula one track test, even though he is 80 per cent ready to return to the pinnacle of motor sport.

The former BMW and Renault driver admitted to Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that he sorely misses F1.

"You do everything to get there and to stay there, then from one day to the next, for reasons that we know, you lose the ability to be there," said the Pole.

"So it's logical that I miss F1," he added.

For now, the 28-year-old insists he needs to be content with his highly-competitive foray in the second-tier world rally championship with Citroen.

"I still don't have enough mobility in my right arm (for F1)," admitted Kubica.

"There's still a long way to go and not everything depends on me. I would not be in perfect physical shape to race in F1," he added.

He admits, however, that he is now a regular in Mercedes' F1 simulator at Brackley, while the German team has admitted he is assisting with car development.

But Kubica said: "In reality, I couldn't drive on all the circuits. Monte Carlo for example, you have to turn the steering wheel more and I couldn't do that.

"For sure I could drive the car, I feel as though I'm driving as before on the simulator, but it's pointless to do a (track) test if I can't go on all the circuits."

He is also quoted by Autosprint: "In terms of physical effort, of course the simulator is not able to reproduce the G-force, but the effort behind the wheel and the controls are identical to the real cars.

"Even now I'm using it without any help, but in all honestly I think I would be able to drive only on about 80 per cent of the circuits."

Kubica repeated his denial that an actual return to a F1 test track is already scheduled.

"Because," he smiled, "you could not keep that secret from everybody.

"No, really, without the prospect of racing, a test doesn't interest me," he added.

2014 might not be close title battle – FIA's Blash
(GMM) The 2013 title could be all but decided within the next three races, according to O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio.

He said most teams will make a decision after Silverstone, the Nurburgring and Hungary about whether to switch off development of the 2013 car or push ahead for better results after the August factory shutdown period.

"I think many people will then move their focus to the championship of next year," Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted as saying.

Mercedes' Niki Lauda doesn't agree.

"Among the big teams, everyone will keep trying to make their cars faster until the end of the championship," said the German squad's chairman.

Lauda said it is simplistic to say the title will be over by August, although he concedes: "If Sebastian (Vettel) can make his lead even bigger, it will be very difficult to stop him being a four times straight world champion."

Surely, then, some teams will be tempted to turn off the 2013 resources and focus everything on the radical new 2014 formula?

After all, with the new engines, energy-recovery systems, aerodynamic changes and cars that will look and sound markedly different, the possibility that big gaps will open up on the 2014 grid is very likely.

"Yes," agreed Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn, "we are facing several major engineering challenges and someone is likely to find solutions that are more efficient.

"I hope it's us," said the Briton.

Sauber's engineering chief Giampaolo Dall'ara agrees: "Now, with the stability of the regulations, when someone comes up with something novel, it's not so difficult for everyone to copy it.

"But next year, incorporating the winning solutions discovered by the others will probably necessitate a car redesign, which will mean waiting for the following season."

Red Bull designer Adrian Newey added: "We could see one team dominating the (2014) championship."

Even the FIA's deputy race director Herbie Blash concedes that 2014 might not stage the closest on-track battle.

"Whenever there is a conceptual review of the technical regulations, as we will have next year," he said, "the first year is not so competitive."

Pic 'waiting' for 2014 Caterham-Renault contract
(GMM) Charles Pic's future is closely tied to Renault, manager Olivier Panis has admitted.

The 23-year-old Frenchman moved from Marussia to Caterham over the winter, having signed what former F1 driver Panis describes as a "long term contract".

But that doesn't mean Pic's future beyond 2013 is signed and sealed.

Panis, 46, refers to Pic's close relationship with Renault, who are yet to put the final lid on a V6 engine deal with Caterham for 2014.

Asked about Pic's progress so far at Caterham, Frenchman Panis said: "In my view he has a chance to become a real star of the future.

"At the moment we are with Caterham, and the beginning of the season was not so successful because the car was far from ideal," he told Russia's

"But Charles is doing well, he has a good relationship with the team and he can help them gradually increase the pace of the car."

Panis suggested that Pic helped Renault to secure a "major sponsor" in the form of Renault, adding that the French carmaker "is very important for his future".

"We have a long term contract with Caterham," said the former Toyota driver, "but now we are waiting for the signing of the contract between the team and Renault for the engine supply."

Panis also said it is "nonsense" to write off drivers like Pic as mere 'pay drivers', based on the fact they bring sponsorship to a team.

"When I started my career in F1," he explained, "companies like Elf and Gitanes Blondes paid a lot of money for me (in support).

"By this I mean that in the past everyone in F1 had some kind of sponsorship or another, but no one said anything.

"Of course, back then there were also not-so-good drivers who were in F1 because of money, but if you look at the grid in 2013 it is very strong, despite the fact that virtually everyone has paid something in some way," added Panis.

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