Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Kim Jong Un, 30, the third in his family to lead the reclusive North Korean country, is acting like the child that he is and trying to make himself a hero to the people he represses

    Hulkenberg happy with new role as young veteran

  • Team orders angst now 'checked off' – Rosberg
  • Korea GP in doubt as rogue North threatens nuclear war
  • Too many pay-drivers on F1 grid – Todt
  • Marko denies 'criticizing' Webber
  • Ferrari 'working hard' on qualifying pace
  • Shanghai adopts two DRS zones for 2013
  • Blundell to act as driver steward in China
  • Wolff targets young driver test with Williams
  • Domenicali ponders Alonso, Massa – and Vettel New
  • 'Multi-21' affair makes Domenicali smile New
  • Rivals study Red Bull's record pitstops New

Hulkenberg happy with new role as young veteran
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has admitted he is enjoying his status as the most experienced driver at Sauber this year.

It is a new experience for the 25-year-old, who although now a very familiar face in the paddock, is actually contesting only his third full season of F1 in 2013.

He made his debut at Williams in 2010, but had to sit out 2011 as Force India's reserve, before stepping back into the race cockpit last season.

The German has now switched to Sauber, where he is the de-facto team leader due to teammate Esteban Gutierrez's rookie status.

"I think your question can not be easily answered, because my situations have been so fundamentally different," Hulkenberg said in an interview with his sponsor Dekra.

He insists it is too easy to say his status has now come full circle, having once been the rookie at Williams, and now showing the way for Mexican Gutierrez.

"When I was a rookie (at Williams), Rubens (Barrichello) was the most experienced formula one driver, with 18 years (in F1) under his belt.

"Now I have two years of experience, so the difference between me and Esteban is not as big as it was between me and Rubens.

"But I do think I prefer the current situation, because I've been in the sport longer and I do have some experience, which is a big help in this sport."

Hulkenberg's situation does come with arguably extra pressure, though, because he is perhaps expected to beat his inexperienced teammate.

"Absolutely it's expected of me that I beat my teammate," he agreed.

"But it's also wrong to underestimate Esteban. He is incredibly fast and I can still learn things from him.

"Otherwise, not much has changed for me compared to 2010 or 2012 — you always try to beat your teammate, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are."

Team orders angst now 'checked off' – Rosberg
(GMM) Nico Rosberg insists he and Mercedes have moved on from Malaysia.

At Sepang, behind the warring Red Bulls, Mercedes duo Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were also the subject of a team orders controversy.

Arguing that the silver cars needed to save fuel to the finish line, the faster Rosberg was ordered by boss Ross Brawn to settle for fourth place behind his teammate, triggering reports that Briton Hamilton is the 'number 1'.

The saga also intensified rumors that Brawn is at odds with the team's new German-speaking faction led by shareholders Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.

"We need to talk to Ross," said Lauda after the race, "if this is the strategy to be used from now on."

Rosberg was also obviously unhappy, telling Brawn on the radio after crossing the checkered flag to "Remember this one".

But he insists now that it's all over.

"Malaysia was sobering for me in every respect," he told DPA news agency, "but it is now checked off.

"We have thoroughly discussed and clarified it internally," said Rosberg.

"Besides, I've learned over the years to quickly set aside any setbacks. This is a help in sports, because there are always setbacks," he added.

Indeed, Rosberg might now be on an upward curve, having looked the quicker Mercedes driver in the Sepang race, and now heading to China, the scene of his 2012 win.

Actually, the 27-year-old is somewhat of a 'Shanghai specialist', having led almost 50 per cent of all the laps raced in China in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

But Wolff warns: "Yesterday's home runs don't win today's games, and that's definitely true for us."

Still, Rosberg is confident as he heads to Shanghai, obviously one of his favorite layouts.

"It's hard to explain (why)," he said, "but there are many unique curves, which I find amazing.

"But what I like most are the memories of this track.

"We worked very hard over the winter," Rosberg continued. "We actually managed to close the gap to our rivals in Malaysia and were not so inferior to Red Bull.

"Now we have to keep at it."

Korea GP in doubt as rogue North threatens nuclear war
(GMM) A cloud of uncertainty has moved above October's scheduled running of the Korean grand prix.

The tension between South Korea, home of F1's fourteenth round of the 2013 championship, and the rogue North has been escalating at an alarming rate in the past hours.

Most alarming is the rhetoric.

North Korean media quoted a regime spokesman as saying: "The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching close to a thermonuclear war due to the evermore undisguised hostile actions of the United States and the South Korean puppet warmongers".

And a bulletin on state-run North Korean television reportedly warned of an "all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war".

"(North Korea) does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war," the bulletin reportedly continued, warning that "all foreigners, including tourists (should) take measures for shelter and evacuation".

Western foreign affair analysts, however, insist the threat of war is actually low, while the US embassy said that "despite current political tension", there is "no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats" to peace.

Moreover, there have been no reports that suggest the huge North Korean army has been briefed for a major war.

"The (US) embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that US citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time," it added.

The latest reports, however, say spy satellites have identified two North Korean nuclear-capable missiles that are ready for launch, and that the US is deploying a missile defense system to Guam.

Japan is also on the alert, with missile interceptors moved to key locations around Tokyo.

The border to China has been closed and tourists are being turned back, with a border official confirming the "North Korean government is now asking foreign people to leave".

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon warned that if the "very dangerous" situation is not handled correctly, it could become "uncontrollable".

Too many pay-drivers on F1 grid – Todt
(GMM) Less than a month ago, the FIA's low-profile president Jean Todt seemed to race away from the issue of cost cutting in formula one.

Many teams on the grid are pleading for the governing body to intervene, citing the unenforceability of the gentleman's 'resource restriction agreement' and arguing that the measures should go further.

"It's not something we all have to agree together," Todt said last month.

"We are the regulator. If they don't want to reduce costs, that's it. It's not our responsibility to do things that teams do not want."

On this score, Todt – once the boss of the F1 superpower Ferrari – is apparently backed by the sport's modern big-hitter Red Bull, whose Christian Horner said this week that he would like to see even the current resource agreement torn up.

But Todt insisted: "I have never heard anyone say they are against a reduction in the costs.

"I'm sure that if we make reasonable suggestions, everyone can be happy," the Frenchman is quoted by the German-language Spox.

"We do need to reduce costs in order to keep everyone on board," Todt continued.

"It is important to find a compromise; the FIA has to come to an agreement with the owners of the commercial rights, and the teams."

Todt spoke of a 30 per cent overall cost reduction as being a reasonable target, expressing alarm at the growing rate of so-called 'pay drivers' on the grid.

"It is not normal that half of the drivers need to pay," he said.

"Formula one is the pinnacle of motor sport and so I think it's not right that drivers need to raise so much money just so they can be there."

Marko denies 'criticizing' Webber
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko insists pre-season comments he made about Mark Webber were never supposed to be interpreted as criticism of the Australian driver.

Austrian Marko, seen by most as team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's right hand man, said before the 2013 championship kicked off that Webber "can't maintain form" throughout an entire F1 campaign and "has a little trouble with the pressure".

Webber hit back by saying it is obvious he is not "part of Marko's agenda".

Marko's apparent criticism might have gained new significance in the wake of the recent 'Multi-21' affair, where despite the fact Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders in Malaysia, it is Webber's place alongside him that appears most in doubt.

But Marko is quoted by Spain's El Confidential as insisting all the fuss about his pre-season Webber comments was exaggerated.

"First, the interview was conducted in German," he said, "it just happened to be Christmas, and so it was translated into other languages.

"I was asked why Vettel is champion and not Mark, so I tried to explain the differences with some facts.

"I did not think it would be taken as a criticism of Mark," he insisted.

Marko continued: "Mark has always been a driver with a good reputation, and I have always said of him that when he has a good car, he is a winner.

"But when he has a good car, unfortunately for him so too does Vettel. So, psychologically, it must be very hard for him.

"In the circumstances," Marko insisted, "the magazine tried to say that I was against Mark."

Marko made the comments about Webber in an interview with Red Bull's in-house magazine, Red Bulletin.

Ferrari 'working hard' on qualifying pace
Ferrari is pushing to extract more one-lap performance from the F138 at future Grands Prix, having been focused on maximizing the life of Pirelli’s new tire compounds during the first two rounds of the campaign in Australia and Malaysia.

Despite an impressive showing in a mixed qualifying session at Sepang, where Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso claimed second and third on the grid, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel still held a comfortable advantage, with Technical Director Pat Fry adamant that there is ‘more to come’ in this area as the campaign progresses.

"We’ve shown reasonable race pace and on all the tire types we have used so far we have performed well, however we still have a way to go to be quickest in qualifying and we are working very hard on that at the moment," said Fry, who joined Ferrari in June 2010. "We’ve been concentrating on the longer runs, even if they are not as long as in the past, because this year we expect more pit stops during a race.

"However, we have not ignored our qualifying pace. I am sure there is more to come on this front, as we learn more about our car and start getting the best out of it."

Fry added that Ferrari is bringing upgrades to the track in a more efficient manner this season, with the team enjoying better aero correlation than it did 12 months ago.

Fry says Ferrari's aero correlation has improved. "The key will be to try and move our car development program forward quicker than the other teams do," added Fry. "It’s a tough cycle that will last all year and we need to at least match our 2012 development pace if we are to perform better in qualifying.

"So far, we have worked well, all the way through from design to manufacture, improving on how we did things last year in terms of actually getting new bits onto the car. Also, our aero correlation is better."

Ferrari lies third in the Constructors' standings ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, tied on points with Lotus and 26 behind current leaders Red Bull.

Shanghai adopts two DRS zones for 2013
The Chinese Grand Prix will feature two DRS zones for the first time in its short history this season, with the FIA opting to place an additional area along the main straight.

Following on from Sepang, this weekend's race will also feature two detection points. The first line is placed at Turn 12, with the activation area situated along the back straight. A second detection line has then been placed before the entry to Turn 16, with DRS permitted – if inside the one second window – on the run to the first corner.

As per the regulations, DRS is also restricted to the dedicated zones during practice and qualifying in 2013, as opposed to last year when the device could be used freely.

Blundell to act as driver steward in China
Mark Blundell will serve as the driver representative steward at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. The Briton has held the role once in the past and follows on from fellow countrymen Danny Sullivan and Derek Warwick who covered the first two races.

"It was interesting to be on the other side of the fence," Blundell said after his first stewarding experience at the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix. "It gave me a better understanding of what goes on during the course of the Grand Prix weekend, from the governing body’s side, and I think a lot of people don’t fully understand the amount of information which is coming in and has to be processed. It was good."

Blundell contested a quartet of Formula 1 seasons from 1991 to 1995, driving for Brabham, Ligier, Tyrrell and McLaren. During a gap year in 1992, he claimed victory in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans with Warwick and Frenchman Yannick Dalmas.

Having also raced in America's CART series, Blundell currently runs a management company, entitled 2mb, with fellow Formula 1 star turned commentator Martin Brundle.

Susie Wolff

Wolff targets young driver test with Williams
Susie Wolff has set her sights on taking part in the Young Driver test with Williams this season. The 30-year-old Scot, who drove a Formula 1 car for the first time at Silverstone last October, holds a development role with the Grove-based squad.

"I'm on a fantastic path but I don't look too far ahead," Wolff, wife of Mercedes Executive Director Toto, told BBC Sport. "I look at each small step. Now it's about doing the young drivers days and proving I'm quick enough – and then getting a super license."

Following the potential test, which was last year run on three separate occasions – at Silverstone, Magny-Cours and the Yas Marina Circuit – for teams with differing plans, Wolff says she will then apply for a Super License, which is required to contest races.

"Once I've done the test, I'll apply for a Super License and then I've got to get myself close enough and hope I get the opportunity for a race seat. I would have enough mileage [for it] already but there's no point in doing that just now because it's unrealistic for me to get a race seat yet. I'm not going to jump steps."

Domenicali ponders Alonso, Massa – and Vettel
(GMM) Fernando Alonso on Wednesday said he intends to retire as a Ferrari driver.

The double world champion, and former Minardi, Renault and McLaren driver, is now comfortably Ferrari's 'number 1' and regarded as perhaps the very best driver on the grid.

And already with a long contract, the Spaniard said during a Twitter interview on the Maranello team's website that Ferrari will be his final team.

"Yes, that's what I'm going to do," Alonso answered when asked if he will end his career in red.

"It's the best team in the world, there's nothing above Ferrari."

The only problem for the 31-year-old at the moment is that, right now, he is not necessarily the fastest Ferrari driver.

Felipe Massa is right back on top form, raising the possibility that it will be the once-beleaguered Brazilian who leads the famous team's title charge in 2013.

"It's too early to say," team boss Stefano Domenicali told Germany's Sport Bild on Wednesday.

"But, first of all, I am happy that Felipe is in good shape, and I'm sure Fernando will be strong when it counts."

But even with Alonso undoubtedly the lead Ferrari driver, and Massa in top form, rumors Sebastian Vettel could have a future in red overalls will not go away.

Told that he once hinted that Alonso is better than F1's reigning world champion, Domenicali insisted: "I have never said that.

"You know that I think very, very, very highly of Sebastian. I take my hat off to him.

"Even thought his critics say he had the best car and most of the luck, you only need to look at his statistics. His successes are simply facts," the Italian said.

Domenicali even suggested that Alonso and Vettel could co-exist at Ferrari, "If both drivers are smart and the team manages the situation with clear rules".

"Never say never," he concluded.

'Multi-21' affair makes Domenicali smile
(GMM) Stefano Domenicali has admitted F1's recent 'Multi-21' saga made him smile.

In the past, it was Ferrari copping the brunt of fans and pundits' ire for risking pure sporting ethos by manipulating the order of its two cars.

Now, almost three weeks ago in Malaysia, Mercedes and particularly world champions Red Bull were in the spotlight.

"Obviously both teams simply wanted to protect their positions towards the end of the race," said Ferrari team boss Domenicali, "which is completely legitimate."

Legitimate yes, but rivals teams – Red Bull included – have often in the past drawn attention to Ferrari's willing disposition to impose 'team orders'.

This time, the criticism was elsewhere.

"I have to smile," Domenicali told Germany's Sport Bild on Wednesday, "when I think that in the past we were criticized for our philosophy of putting the interests of the team above all else."

Referring to 'Multi-21' in Malaysia, he continued: "I don't know the facts and the agreements that were made previously.

"I can only say that I saw one of the saddest podiums of my career."

Nonetheless, Domenicali's criticism of Vettel – for ignoring his Red Bull bosses – was muted.

"The fact is," said the Italian, "Sebastian always brings out the maximum from his car, in a way that Mark (Webber) cannot always do."

Rivals study Red Bull's record pitstops
(GMM) After Red Bull beat McLaren's old pitstop speed record no fewer than five times in Malaysia, rivals have been studying the case with great curiosity.

According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, the competition has concluded that Red Bull's advantage is not due to having a superior crew, or having simply invested more time practicing.

"One or two fantastic stops, you can imagine that," McLaren sporting director Sam Michael is quoted as saying.

"But five, with that consistency — that's really impressive."

The suspicion is that Red Bull has stepped up a gear with its pitstop equipment and technology.

"Our guys are certainly not inferior to Red Bull's, and all of our training methods have been optimized," said Michael.

Analysis shows that Red Bull has made a half-second per pitstop time improvement in 2013 compared to last season.

"You can make a jump like that with developments in the equipment," Michael said.

One theory is that Red Bull is using higher air pressure for the wheel-nut guns.

Indeed, every time a Red Bull crew member uses his gun, he dutifully puts it away in a bag, suggesting they are hiding a secret.

"You can hear that they are using more pressure than the others," Williams team manager Dickie Stanford said.

But Michael disagrees: "I doubt anyone is going over 30 bar. Maybe they've simplified the switching mechanism, and it's now electronic rather than mechanical.

"Things like that could save you time."

Stanford, meanwhile, admitted Williams' investigation shows that the Red Bull crew is so easily able to throw the new wheels onto the car.

"At Red Bull they're throwing it on and apparently not even knowing if it's properly seated. It (the wheel) seems to go on by itself," he is quoted as saying.

That would imply that Red Bull has perfected the design of the hub, wheels and nuts so that the wheel is always perfectly seated when the wheel gun is pressed on.

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