Lotus thinks Raikkonen will remain loyal
Lotus plays down Raikkonen exit rumors
- Bahrain protesters won't 'hurt people' – Ecclestone
- Nurburgring rescue deal for one race only
- Sauber pushes 'arrogant' Frijns to accept GP2 seat
- 2013 finale could be Interlagos' last F1 race
- McLaren to 'step up and support' struggling Perez
- Hembery admits Pirelli could change tack after Bahrain
Lotus plays down Raikkonen exit rumors
(GMM) Lotus has played down reports Kimi Raikkonen could be set to jump ship to Red Bull for 2014.
Team owner Gerard Lopez told France's RMC Sport that he thinks the rumors connecting the reigning world champions with the Finn are a diversionary ploy by Red Bull.
He said Lotus would like to keep the 2007 world champion, who is currently just three points behind Sebastian Vettel for the drivers' title lead.
"Kimi is a driver we appreciate greatly," said Lopez. "I think he also appreciates the team.
"We would like him to stay," he admitted. "For now, I think he cannot see himself somewhere else either."
Lopez said he thinks Red Bull triggered the rumors about Raikkonen as some sort of diversionary tactic amid the 'Multi-21' team orders affair.
"After the third race, to be saying things like that … I think those who have said it are maybe having other problems.
"But that's not the case with us, it's going very well just as we are," said Lopez.
Bahrain protesters won't 'hurt people' – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has toned down his rhetoric ahead of the weekend's highly controversial Bahrain grand prix.
Earlier, amid reports of explosions near the formula one circuit linked directly to anti-government protests against the race, the F1 chief executive simply issued a blank denial.
"What's happened? They're demonstrating now? I didn't know that," he told AP news agency.
"There's nobody demonstrating."
However, even the government confirmed Sunday's attack by a "terrorist group", while the group itself admitted it blew up the car "in opposition to holding the formula one race".
And bringing the situation into stark focus are the events in the US, where terrorists have exploded bombs near the finish-line of the iconic Boston Marathon, with devastating effects.
Referring to Bahrain, Ecclestone told British newspapers: "We don't want to see trouble. We don't want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don't understand, because we really don't understand.
"We don't want to see people repressed as a result of the race.
"Some people feel it's our fault there are problems. We are extremely sympathetic to them."
The 82-year-old Briton, however, suggested the protesters are taking advantage of the global coverage attracted by F1, and played down the threat they really pose.
"I don't think the people who are arguing about their position are bad people, and I don't think they're trying to hurt people to make their point," he said.
A government spokeswoman told Bahrain news agency BNA that "appropriate security measures" are in place for the grand prix.
"The security situation in Bahrain is very reassuring," she added.
Meanwhile, the internet 'hacktivist' group Anonymous has threatened to disrupt the sport if it does not cancel the Bahrain grand prix.
"Bernie Ecclestone and the royal family of Bahrain have learned nothing," the group said in a statement.
"We will remove you from the worldwide web. We call upon Bernie Ecclestone while there is still time — cancel your blood race now."
Nurburgring rescue deal for one race only
(GMM) The future of the Nurburgring's formula one race beyond this season is unclear.
Earlier, even the circuit's 2013 grand prix was in doubt, as the Nurburgring grappled with financial problems.
Ultimately, a solution was found when the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AVD) – usually affiliated only with Germany's other venue, Hockenheim – stepped in.
"Yes, we will host the grand prix," a spokeswoman confirmed. "It was finalized in the past week."
But Speed Week reports that the AVD's contract to host formula one at the Nurburgring in 2013 is for one year only.
The AVD spokeswoman confirmed: "The contract is valid for this year, just because we don't know how it will proceed with the Nurburgring (beyond that)."
Sauber pushes 'arrogant' Frijns to accept GP2 seat
(GMM) New Sauber reserve driver Robin Frijns will get back on track this weekend in Bahrain.
Earlier, the highly rated 21-year-old Dutchman said he would focus solely on his new formula one role in 2013.
The reigning Formula Renault 3.5 series champion, Frijns had hoped to split his time between Sauber and a race cockpit in GP2 this year, but he said he could not put together the right budget for a competitive drive.
"We do it right or not at all," he told De Telegraaf newspaper last month.
But it is rumored Sauber was unhappy that Frijns had turned down some offers to contest GP2 in 2013, believing its reserve driver should stay race-sharp if possible.
A source told Speed Week: "Money was not the problem, he could have driven for free. And we're talking about a really good team.
"Dozens of young drivers would do anything for such an offer."
Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn confirmed that Sauber would like Frijns to race.
"In general, we have an interest in ensuring that our young driver is driving. Just as was the case in the past with Esteban Gutierrez.
"I have also heard that Robin turned down some good teams. Now he's coming to Bahrain and so I want to hear from him."
However, the very latest news is that Frijns has now agreed to race for the new Hilmer team in Bahrain.
"We hope that we can do the whole season together," said team boss Franz Hilmer.
Frijns denies he was pushed to accept the drive, denying that refusing to accept anything other than a top seat was a sign of arrogance.
"It had nothing to do with arrogance," he is quoted by formule.nl.
"With the other teams I had to bring money, and I didn't have it. Hilmer said I could drive in Bahrain for free, and I'd be crazy to refuse that.
"I just want to race.
"For now it's a deal just for one weekend, but hopefully now the story will go away that I feel too good for GP2. Of course that's nonsense," he insisted.
2013 finale could be Interlagos' last F1 race
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has threatened to axe Brazil's formula one race if organizers fail to urgently upgrade the ageing Interlagos circuit.
The F1 chief executive told O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper that the city's November finale for the 2013 season could be its very last grand prix.
"Interlagos' promises to upgrade have not been met," said Ecclestone. "And the relationships and feelings that I have for the race are no longer enough."
The 82-year-old said he cannot keep pushing other circuits to improve their facilities whilst letting Brazil get away with having the worst venue on the calendar.
"The track is one of the best in the world, for sure," said Ecclestone.
"Yet the facilities for the public and for the teams are the worst on the calendar.
"It doesn't have to be like here (Shanghai), but it must meet our operational needs," he added.
"We can't keep pushing the other tracks while Interlagos remains as it is year after year."
Ecclestone said the facilities are so bad at Interlagos that teams have to have meetings in the pit garages. "You don't even see that at street tracks, like Monaco, Melbourne and Montreal," he insisted.
He said the Sao Paulo mayor's office must honor its promise to upgrade the venue.
"I don't expect changes for this year," said Ecclestone. "But if the circuit is not in shape, then we will not go to Sao Paulo in 2014.
"We have to know before if we'll be in Sao Paulo or another city in Brazil."
Indeed, Ecclestone travelled to Santa Catarina late last year, to hear about plans for a new Hermann Tilke-designed formula one track.
He admitted: "I confess to having been impressed by the willingness of these people to carry out their project.
"I believe that if we give them the green light, they will start work immediately.
Asked if the threat to dump Interlagos is genuine, Ecclestone insisted: "We would not even use the old asterisk that (the race could take place) subject to improvements.
"I'm tired of the promises. I'm told the city will not have the football competition before the world cup because the stadium isn't ready.
"It'll be the same for formula one; no more Sao Paulo and, who knows, maybe no more Brazil because they don't have a circuit," he added.
McLaren to 'step up and support' struggling Perez
(GMM) McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted new team driver Sergio Perez has struggled since replacing Lewis Hamilton.
After a poor weekend for the young Mexican in China, including a rebuke from Kimi Raikkonen following an on-track run-in, British commentator Martin Brundle said he would have signed Nico Hulkenberg for 2013 "ten times before (signing) Perez."
Immediately after Shanghai, Whitmarsh backed Perez's defensive driving in China, having told the 23-year-old to put his "elbows" out and "be robust without being dirty".
But he does admit that the Carlos Slim-linked Mexican needs to up his game.
"I know Sergio is not satisfied with his performance at the weekend, nor should he be," Whitmarsh told reporters.
The Woking based team's chief admitted Jenson Button's "fantastic job" in the sister car has made life difficult for Perez.
"A lot of credit to Jenson, but we as a team have to step up and support a young driver who has an enormous amount of talent," said Whitmarsh.
"With these sorts of tires, which are very fragile, with the balance not quite there, with tricky racing, he did a reasonable job.
"As a young guy in a big team with lots of expectations you are under a lot more scrutiny, and it's tougher when you've a teammate doing a great job, so there is pressure there," he added.
Hembery admits Pirelli could change tack after Bahrain
(GMM) Paul Hembery has admitted Pirelli might change tack after Sunday's Bahrain grand prix, in the wake of heavy criticism of its 2013 tires.
Mercedes' Niki Lauda, who like Red Bull has been complaining the loudest about the fragile tires and their impact on F1 this year, said in China that Pirelli has agreed to supply more durable compounds for Barcelona and beyond.
Hembery, Pirelli's F1 boss, acknowledged the legendary triple world champion's words, but insists the Italian marque "needs these four races" at the start of the calendar to fully unfold before decisions are made.
"If we do make changes, we'll announce it after Bahrain and in time for Barcelona," the Briton promised.
It is believed the straw that broke the camel's back regarding Pirelli's likely change of tack has been an argument based also on safety.
Former grand prix driver Olivier Panis explained: "Pirelli is not 100 per cent to blame.
"I think we (F1) asked them to do things for the show, and they followed the specifications.
"So I don't want to throw stones and criticize, but it has gone too far," said the Frenchman, who now travels to races as French driver Charles Pic's advisor.
"Now it is a safety problem. We saw (Jenson) Button's tire burst because of a flat spot (in China), but it's important not to have failures like this when you are going 300.
"That's what scares me; the safety. There is degradation and yes it's the same for everyone but we have to be careful it does not go too far," Panis told RMC Sport.
Another possible change for Barcelona is an extra set of tires for teams to use on Fridays, encouraging more action rather than the new common practice of saving tires in the pits.
Hembery said Pirelli would be "happy to promote" that idea, which was proposed by Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley.
The concept would be that teams qualify for the extra, more durable tires if they pledge to fit them to a car piloted by a non-race driver.
But Hembery said all the teams are yet to agree, mainly because while the small teams would be happy to run a young or reserve driver, the same is not true of the top teams.