Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • After investing so much money and resources in Lewis Hamilton's career and giving him a World Championship and many F1 wins, Ron Dennis must be pissed to hear Hamilton say he was wasting away his best years at McLaren.

    F1 holds breath for 'test-gate' hearing

  • Pirelli-factor hurting F1 ticket sales – Button
  • Hulkenberg hints Force India exit not 'right decision'
  • Le Mans would welcome Mark Webber – McNish
  • Maldonado not threatened by rising rookie Bottas
  • Hamilton fears for his legacy after 'wasting away best years'

F1 holds breath for 'test-gate' hearing
(GMM) The F1 world is holding its collective breath ahead of the 'test-gate' hearing in Paris on Thursday.

Predictably, rumors are swirling.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims Mercedes boss Ross Brawn might be armed not only with an email from Charlie Whiting, but a separate document in which the highly controversial Barcelona test is green-lighted by the FIA's legal department.

But also rumored is that it will be shown that Mercedes, and possibly also Pirelli, were clearly in the wrong, in which case severe penalties could await, and heads could roll.

"Most people who are talking do not know the facts," Mercedes' Toto Wolff, who will not be in Paris, is quoted by Kleine Zeitung.

Indeed, Wolff has been busy in the last few days, and fellow team shareholder Niki Lauda admitted to Blick newspaper he spent "the whole Montreal weekend trying to prevent the (tribunal) process".

Wolff's efforts of the last days, including meetings with Bernie Ecclestone in London, and Jean Todt in Paris, were also in vain, according to Sport Bild.

So, also to appear before the 12-judge panel on Thursday morning will be Pirelli's Paul Hembery.

With Brawn representing Mercedes alone, Wolff denied the team's British boss – whose future successor Paddy Lowe is already working at Brackley – is the scapegoat.

"Ross Brawn is not being sacrificed in Paris. That's not in my nature," Wolff told Bild.

"Ross doesn't need someone like me there, holding his hand."

However, there is speculation that in the event of a high penalty – like hefty points deductions and a two-digit million fine – Brawn might voluntarily step down.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh is quoted by as suggesting that a penalty, if any, "should be decided by the FIA".

"But usually a sporting penalty should be imposed for a sporting offence," he added, suggesting a mere fine will not be enough.

Former driver Marc Surer agrees: "Only a fine would mean that a team like Red Bull could also test for 1000 kilometers — it would be relatively expensive, but doable.

"So there must be a sporting penalty," he insisted.

Pirelli-factor hurting F1 ticket sales – Button
(GMM) Jenson Button thinks the economy and an 'after you' style of racing in 2013 has hurt ticket sales ahead of the British grand prix.

Writing in the Independent this week, F1 business journalist Christian Sylt said lower than usual ticket sales for the weekend's Silverstone race is because fans have rebelled against price increases.

A circuit spokesman admitted sales "aren't that strong".

Some of the other reasons for the slump could be because Button and Lewis Hamilton are unlikely to win, and also because ticket holders were actually turned away from qualifying last year amid the weather chaos.

Button thinks the economy is one definite factor.

"To sell out here would be very impressive but are there that many people who can afford to come?" he is quoted by the Guardian newspaper.

"I don't think people are walking away from the sport. If you look at every sporting event, it is not as strong as maybe it was last year. That is just the way the world is at the moment."

A factor specific to F1, however, could be the questionable spectacle of the 2013 formula, caused mainly by drivers having to race off the pace to look after Pirelli's fragile tires.

"I agree that some of the racing hasn't been action-packed," Button said.

"It has been a lot more 'After you, sir, because I am looking after my tires'. But there have been good races," he insisted.

Hulkenberg hints Force India exit not 'right decision'
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has admitted for the first time that moving from Force India to Sauber over the winter may not have been the "right decision".

Until now, the 25-year-old German has defended his move on the basis that Swiss team Sauber, currently in a performance slump, has the potential to revive its podium-winning form of 2012.

But, now with more of a third of the 2013 season in the past, Hulkenberg has acknowledged Sauber is in "a difficult situation" with its C32 car, while Force India is in the top-five of the championship, ahead even of McLaren.

"Of course this is not what I had imagined, and not what the team imagined," Hulkenberg told Speed Week.

"Clearly we are not where we want to be and where we should be.

"But unfortunately that's formula one — when you make decisions, there is never a guarantee that it's going to be the right one.

"What we have to do now is to keep looking ahead and get the best out of the season."

Hulkenberg admitted that being passed or beaten by a Force India in 2013 hurts.

"To be honest it hasn't happened on the track, but due to strategy or in the pits, of course it does (hurt). I would like to have a faster car."

Meanwhile, Jenson Button has said that, amid McLaren's slump, it is no surprise Force India has raced past the British grandee.

"Part of their car is from us, part is from Mercedes, so they are going to do well," he told British newspapers.

Le Mans would welcome Mark Webber – McNish
(GMM) Former F1 driver Allan McNish thinks the world of Le Mans would welcome Mark Webber with open arms in 2014.

With his Red Bull deal expiring, and the world champions weighing up the candidates to replace him, 37-year-old Australian Webber has been linked with Porsche's return to prototype sports car racing.

"If Mark did decide to come we would all embrace him with open arms -– until the first corner," Scot McNish, who raced in F1 with Toyota in 2002, joked to the Huffington Post.

"He wouldn't want it any other way," smiled McNish, now a top Le Mans driver for Audi.

"He's a hard charger, he's intelligent, he's a thinker, he's a nice person, he'd be good in the paddock," McNish said of Webber, who raced at Le Mans late last century with Mercedes.

The fabled 24 hour Le Mans race takes place this weekend, and McNish thinks the event can compete head-to-head with formula one.

"I think sports cars has offered manufacturers a place where they can develop a technology at a good, sensible cost," he said.

"They can race in a high profile race, Le Mans, which matches any F1 race without question and it's got a world championship.

"Look at Renault — they've won the F1 world championship for quite a few years but no one knows. They all think it's a Red Bull."

McNish also said Le Mans has become a "viable" option for drivers of F1 pedigree like Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna, and questioned whether formula one has taken the right direction with its tire-dominated racing.

"It's very odd the way it is in formula one now," he said.

"I was looking at the lap times from the Bahrain GP and noticed that they were basically the same as our race lap times there — for a car that is 300kg lighter.

"I think F1 has tried quite hard over the past few years to become a spectacle, to get the fans to enjoy wheel to wheel racing.

"I think it's positive to do that but they might have gone a little bit too far," added McNish.

Maldonado not threatened by rising rookie Bottas
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado insists he does not feel threatened by the rising form of his rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Young Finn Bottas grabbed the headlines in Montreal recently when he qualified third, amid a profile already on the rise due to his form alongside Venezuelan Maldonado, the more experienced driver and 2012 Barcelona winner.

But Maldonado said on Wednesday: "The conditions benefitted Valtteri in Canada.

"It doesn't mean he's faster and I'm slower. Our car is quite difficult, but I don't need to prove anything to anybody," the 28-year-old, who like Bottas is yet to score a single point in 2013, is quoted by Brazil's Globo Esporte.

Indeed, Maldonado argues that Williams is leaning on him too hard, due to Bottas' inexperience.

"They rely too much on me," he said.

"In fact, I am responsible for all the technical testing of the car because I have more knowledge and experience with the team," added Maldonado.

His comments coincide with rumors Maldonado, backed by millions in sponsorship from PDVSA, has been earmarked by Lotus as a potential successor to the possibly Red Bull-bound Kimi Raikkonen.

Maldonado insisted: "It's not the time to plan where I will be in 2014.

"I sincerely hope to continue for a few more years at Williams. It is the team that gave me the opportunity to be in formula one, and I got my first and so far only victory with them.

"I believe we have the potential to win more with this team," he added.

Lewis Hamilton, not fit to carry Vettel's helmet bag, has now burned his bridges with McLaren to justify his money grab move to Mercedes

Hamilton fears for his legacy after 'wasting away best years'
An anxious Lewis Hamilton has admitted time is running out on his dream of becoming a multiple World Champion and intimated he left McLaren due to fears he was "wasting away the best years" of his career.

Despite being widely regarded as the fastest driver in F1, Hamilton has just a solitary title on his CV after six full seasons in the sport – an adequate return for most, but a serious shortfall for a driver of his skill and talent.

Hamilton, whose championship hopes for this season are already remote after slipping 55 points adrift of the summit, has struck a curiously disenchanted figure in recent weeks, and it seems the prospect of retiring from F1 with just a single championship, won as long ago as 2008, is weighing heavily on his mind.

"Time is slipping away," Lewis told The Sunday Times' Driving Magazine in a remarkably candid interview. "It's been five years since I won the World Championship. When I was in the lower categories I would win a championship every year or every other year.

"There are a lot of drivers that haven't won a World Championship, so I feel at least grateful that I have one, although one is less prestigious now because so many people have won a championship. Now the people who have two or three or four: [that's what] makes you special."

It's not difficult to identify the unnamed elephant in the room: Sebastian Vettel. While Hamilton and former nemesis Fernando Alonso have formed a mutual-admiration society in recent years, frequently heralding the other as the best driver in the sport, the Red Bull driver already boasts as many titles as the pair combined. With a fourth successive championship for the German already beckoning, a pensive Hamilton has seemingly begun to question just how the sport will remember him.

"I'm getting older and I don't have forever in this sport. So I definitely start to think what I want people to remember me as: I just want to be known as a hard, out and out racer," he said.

Hamilton stunned the F1 world last October when he announced he was leaving McLaren, a team steeped in success, for Mercedes, an outfit which had won just one race in the previous three years.

The 28-year-old insisted at the time that he was seeking a fresh challenge, but if that ambition was the pull behind the switch the push appears to have been frustration with a series of title near-misses. It ought, perhaps, to be readily recalled that Hamilton's bombshell decision to depart McLaren was delivered the week after a mechanical failure in Singapore saw him retire from the lead of the race and, to all intents and purposes, the title race as well.

"I got to F1 and nearly won in my first year, then won I won in my second year," Hamilton reflected. "I've never had a car to really compete since then. The car makes such a big difference so you're just wasting away your best years."

Earning a reputed £60m over the course of his three-season contract with Mercedes, the 28-year-old Hamilton should, according to accepted wisdom, currently be at the peak of his powers, and his claim that he didn't have a car capable of challenging for a championship since 2008 is, at best, contentious. In 2012, it was a corrosive mix of cock-ups and calamity, rather than the car, which cost him – and McLaren – dear.

Yet the prospect of Hamilton's legacy being thoroughly eclipsed by that of the relentlessly-successful Vettel is a very real one – and, apparently, very troubling. For both Alonso and Hamilton, all the talent in the world is a small consolation for an acute shortage of World Championships. Sky Sports

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