Latest F1 news in brief – Monday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Jules Bianchi

    Bianchi admits Ferrari future 'in mind'

  • Red Bull signs female to famous 'junior team'
  • Lotus wants Pirelli to keep 'tender' tires
  • Nurburgring closed to remove giant penis graffiti
  • Massa confident he can win in 2013
  • Journalist expects 2014 turbo cars to 'howl'
  • Raikkonen enjoys motocross during F1 break
  • Barrichello would race in F1 again 'for the pleasure'
  • McNish: Mercedes favoring Hamilton New
  • Mallya confident wheel nut issue is fixed New

Bianchi admits Ferrari future 'in mind'
(GMM) Jules Bianchi has refused to rule out speculation his impressive pace with Marussia so far in 2013 could lead to a future at Ferrari.

Having missed out on the Force India seat for his F1 race debut this year, the 23-year-old was snapped up instead by Marussia, after Luiz Razia's sponsorship dollars failed to arrive.

Bianchi and Marussia then emerged as an early surprise package of 2013.

Backed by Ferrari, as the cream of the famous Italian marque's development 'academy', Bianchi is now being tipped by some to be the next Ferrari driver.

Asked if he has spoken to Stefano Domenicali after impressing in Australia and Malaysia, Bianchi told Sky: "I am still speaking to Ferrari as I am still part of their driver academy, so for sure they look at what I am doing.

"But I don't want to put any extra pressure — I am with Marussia now, I want to do a good job for them and then we will see what happens," he told the British broadcaster.

Asked, however, if a Ferrari seat is an eventual goal, Bianchi admitted: "It is something we have in mind because I already have a contract with them in the academy, so we want for sure to do something in the future.

"But it is too early to know about that. We have done only two races, we still have 17 races to do and we will see what happens," he added.

"I need to stay at this level first of all and improve. We will see next year what happens, but I would be pleased to stay with Marussia next year again."

If he is called up by Ferrari – whose existing driver Felipe Massa is also managed by Frenchman Nicolas Todt – Bianchi insists he would be ready for life at the front of the front.

"Yes, I think every driver when you are in formula one, you are one of the best drivers in the world, so you can jump into a top team like Ferrari.

"I think you just need more experience when you are a young driver, but then when you are doing good races, you show people you deserve to have that opportunity," he said.

Red Bull signs female to famous 'junior team'
(GMM) Red Bull has signed up a female driver to its famous driver development 'junior team'.

18-year-old Netherlander Beitske Visser, having won two races in 2012, will race this year with the energy drink company's backing in the German single seater category ADAC Formel Masters in 2013.

She is "the first ever female to join our squad", Red Bull said in a statement.

In charge of the junior program is Dr Helmut Marko, who in February declared that US-based IndyCar and Nascar star Danica Patrick has done "not enough" to attract Red Bull's attention.

"We are looking for drivers based on performance, not by quota," he said.

The most famous graduate of Red Bull's junior team is Sebastian Vettel, but also making it to F1 from the same program were Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and several others.

Lotus wants Pirelli to keep 'tender' tires
(GMM) Lotus has admitted it is opposed to Pirelli making radical changes to its 2013 tires.

After Australia and Malaysia, when the behavior of the Italian marque's new heavily-degrading range became clear, some top teams – notably Red Bull and Mercedes – said they want Pirelli to make changes as soon as possible.

"Certain teams are keen for a switch back to last year's rubber," Lotus technical director James Allison confirmed, "but teams will always push for what's in their best interest."

Indeed, Kimi Raikkonen won in Melbourne with the impressive new black E21, and so Allison said Lotus obviously wants the status quo to remain.

"We feel the current tires make for entertaining racing, but then we would say that as our car tends to prosper when the tires are tender," he admitted.

Pirelli has promised to "review" the situation after next weekend's Bahrain grand prix, warning however that it will only make notable changes if the overwhelming majority of teams demand action.

Nurburgring closed to remove giant penis graffiti
(GMM) The fabled Nordschleife, the treacherous layout alongside the modern Nurburgring formula one circuit, had to be closed for a time on Sunday.

Austria's APA news agency reports that graffiti artists painted a giant 15 by 4-metre all-white penis on the asphalt of the famous layout.

Circuit authorities deployed specialized cleaning vehicles to remove the graffiti, and local police confirmed that the facility had to be closed for 90 minutes.

The police estimate that the graffiti involved about 20 liters of white paint, posing a low-grip safety hazard for those lapping the Nurburgring.

A photo can be seen here.

Massa confident he can win in 2013
(GMM) Felipe Massa is sure he has found the road back to F1 success.

Behind Red Bull and Mercedes' 'team orders' in Malaysia, Brazilian Massa continued his solid return to full form, finishing fifth.

The Ferrari driver said it could have been a podium.

"I am very confident," he is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I think we can get back to winning."

Alongside the indomitable Fernando Alonso, it is Massa who is the unbeaten Ferrari qualifier in 2013, and he is also ranked ahead of the Spaniard in the points standings.

"I don't think we had the car to win at Sepang, but I think we had a very good car to fight for the podium," Massa said.

"The pace was good at the end. For sure without the problem of graining at the start, the race could have been very different and the chance to fight for the podium would have been much higher.

"It was important in the end to take home points, and fifth place – considering the first part of the race – was not so bad," he added.

"Now we have to keep our feet on the ground: we have done a good job with the car, but there is much to do to get the right development and make it more competitive.

"I think that if we continue in this direction, we have the ability to win races and fight for the championship."

Journalist expects 2014 turbo cars to 'howl'
(GMM) One respected veteran correspondent has allayed fears F1's scream will become a whimper when the new V6 rules take over next year.

Apparently spurred on by Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 circuits' union chief Ron Walker told Autoweek last week that the 1.6 liter ERS-boosted engines of 2014 sound "like a lawnmower engine".

And Ecclestone hinted the sport's authorities might be forced to artificially enhance the noise, for fear of losing spectators.

But Jean-Louis Moncet, the long-time French commentator for TF1, said the fears are exaggerated.

"I don't think the engine noise for 2014 is really a problem," he said in his Auto Plus blog.

"I started as a journalist in F1 in 1978, when Renault was winning acclaim with its turbo.

"Ferrari was not long to follow, then BMW and then others. In those days it was a 1500cc V6, single or twin turbo, except BMW had an inline 4 cylinder.

"So, a memory, and one to reassure you," Moncet told his readers. "The grand prix of France, at Paul Ricard, and Nelson Piquet on the Mistral straight.

"Sincerely, in the middle of the straight you could easily imagine the BMW, at 330kph, tearing up the asphalt and digging a trench to a depth of twenty meters. It howled that much.

"So it's going to sound different (in 2014), but there will be noise — lots of noise, without which, F1 would not be F1.

"But I think a lot of this fear about the noise is coming from young journalists listening at the grand prix circuits to the turbocharged engine in the GP3 cars, that sound like a power drill.

"The ERS F1 engine will be fundamentally different," Moncet concluded.

Raikkonen enjoys motocross during F1 break
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen filled in the time between the recent Malaysian grand prix and round three in China this weekend with a spot of motocross.

Founded alongside his rallying team during his two-year F1 sabbatical, Raikkonen's 'IceOne' squad also includes a motocross arm.

So the Finn pulled on his leathers and goggles last week – during the three-week break between Malaysia and China – and headed to Belgium, according to the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

There, the 2007 world champion participated in the gravel practice session, with images depicting him in full airborne tilt.

See the photos here.

Motocross riding would ordinarily be deemed too dangerous for F1 teams to allow, but Lotus team boss Eric Boullier admitted last week that "One of our drivers is famous for doing pretty much what he wants".

Barrichello would race in F1 again 'for the pleasure'
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello has admitted he would happily step back into the cockpit of a formula one car, to race one more time just for "the pleasure and passion".

The Brazilian, who holds the record for the longest ever grand prix career in history, lost his Williams drive at the end of 2011, turning to IndyCar and now Brazil's touring car series.

So as he prepares to turn his mind back to F1 as an expert pundit for Brazilian TV, the 40-year-old gave Globo a tour of his Sao Paulo home — including his private collection of F1 helmets.

The collection is varied and rare, ranging from Fernando Alonso's silver McLaren design of 2007, to a Ferrari-liveried Michael Schumacher helmet, and designs sported by Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

"This one," Barrichello said, picking up his own familiar design, "I got all the signatures of everyone at my last formula one race. Everyone," he repeated enthusiastically.

"I told everyone it was for the (Barrichello-Kanaan) institute, but in the end I preferred to just give the institute the money and keep this memory of my last race.

"I didn't think it was going to be my last race, so I missed the farewell," he added.

"My time in F1 is over, but if someone on the grid gets a stomach-ache, I will find the time," he joked. "For the pleasure and the passion."

McNish: Mercedes favoring Hamilton
Allan McNish says he feels that the Malaysian Grand Prix was an indication that Mercedes is set to favor Lewis Hamilton over Nico Rosberg in its quest to secure the 2013 F1 title.

Although largely overshadowed by what happened at Red Bull in the same race, Mercedes also employed team orders by asking Rosberg to hold position behind Hamilton, despite the German appearing to have the quicker car of the two.

Speaking to BBC Sport, former Toyota racer McNish – now working as an analyst for Five Live alongside his Audi sportscar commitments – said he felt the radio call was a sign that Hamilton was being favored in the title race, even though Mercedes bosses have insisted that there is equality in its line-up.

"Just look at that conversation over the radio," he told BBC Sport. "Even though it's not official, there's definitely a strong focus on Hamilton being their main challenge for the championship.

"They've opened their arms to Hamilton and they've certainly got their arm round him quite well at the moment."

The Scot added that he felt signing Hamilton had breathed fresh life into the Brackley-based team and also said he felt it would help to improve Rosberg as a driver, with the German seeking to beat his new team-mate during the year ahead.

"I think he's [Hamilton] definitely been comfortable with what they are going to give him and the changes Mercedes are going to make to the structure of the team – otherwise he wouldn't have gone there," he said. "It was clear that Hamilton was the quickest guy on the grid last year and I'm not surprised he's had the upper hand over Rosberg in qualifying because I do believe that Hamilton is the fastest guy over one lap. He has brought a fresh lease of life to the team.

"I actually think Nico has done very well, especially in Malaysia. Team-mates have gone up against Hamilton and failed – he's a tough nut to crack but he's a world champion for a reason. So it'll be interesting to see if Rosberg can keep pushing him." Crash.Net

Mallya confident wheel nut issue is fixed
Force India team boss Vijay Mallya is confident that the repetitive wheel nut issue his outfit suffered at the Malaysian Grand Prix is now resolved, with staff members completing an extensive investigation to uncover the root cause.

Both Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were forced into retirement at Sepang, with fears over the drivers' safety growing too high after a series of troublesome pit-stops.

"Even though the last race was very disappointing, I know we have the potential to bounce back quickly and get a good result in Shanghai," said Mallya.

"Throughout the Sepang weekend, we had a quick car and the drivers felt good about their chances. We were confident of bringing both cars home in the points until the wheel nut issue let us down. We’ve had three weeks to understand what went wrong and have worked hard fix the root cause of the problem."

Mallya believes the upcoming races in China and Bahrain will provide a better representation of the grid and has set his Force India team the target of 'big points'.

"The next two weekends, with races in China and Bahrain, will put us in a position to see where we really stand in comparison with our rivals," added Mallya. "Everyone in the team is looking forward to this challenge and I am confident we will put the disappointment of Malaysia behind us and bring home some big points."

After the first two races, Force India lies fifth in the teams' standings with ten points.

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