Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Can Rosberg put it to Hamilton?

    Rosberg could beat Hamilton with 'other strengths'

  • F1 owner CVC 'milking' money from sport – Fernley
  • Vettel calls 2013 car 'Hungry Heidi'
  • Vodafone confirms McLaren exit
  • New title sponsor already decided – McLaren
  • Valencia could return to F1 in 2014
  • Ferrari won't copy Red Bull's 'Newey' approach
  • Shell launches Lego brand with Ferrari
  • Di Resta 'had personality make-over' for 2013 New
  • Button hits back at Hamilton's McLaren criticism New
  • Ousted Petrov's manager joins Caterham New
  • Button could struggle to continue winning trend New
  • Mercedes to 'protect itself' before McLaren-Honda New era

Rosberg could beat Hamilton with 'other strengths'
(GMM) Nico Rosberg insists he is not worried about being beaten by his new teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Germany's Sport Bild told the 27-year-old that although he beat the great Michael Schumacher at Mercedes over the past three years, many perceive it as more to do with the seven time world champion's decline.

"I can assure you that Michael was still on it," Rosberg insisted.

Whatever the case, the German's skills will be tested yet again in 2013, now that Lewis Hamilton – undisputedly one of the very fastest in F1 – is his teammate.

Years ago, the pair were teammates in the upper classes of go-karting.

"He (Hamilton) was super-fast," Rosberg admitted.

He thinks, however, that he might have the upper hand now that they share identical formula one cars.

"Karting is pure, but in formula one, my other strengths come into play much more," said Rosberg.

"I always get the most from the setup; I am very consistent," he said, raising the idea that Hamilton is more of an instinctive driver.

"There are drivers who have days where not everything fits together. I have less of them," added Rosberg.

F1 owner CVC 'milking' money from sport – Fernley
(GMM) Force India has lashed out at F1's owner CVC, accusing the private equity firm of not being interested in developing the sport.

The financial news agency Bloomberg quoted deputy team boss Bob Fernley as saying new deals that give more money and power to the bigger teams are a "disaster".

"CVC is not interested in developing the sport, it's interested in making as much money as possible and then selling it," he said.

"The income split doesn't support formula one."

Many of F1's smallest teams are struggling, and former Renault boss Flavio Briatore told Sky Italia this week: "I can't understand why none of the team bosses are saying anything".

Spanish backmarker HRT folded over the winter, the woes of Force India's owners Vijay Mallya and Sahara are making headlines, and Marussia and Caterham have had to dump their number 1s in order to sign 'pay drivers' in 2013.

Still referring to CVC, Fernley continued: "You need to have an investor who gets a good return but one that also has an interest" in F1.

"CVC has milked it and anyone investing in it should be looking very closely at what they're getting."

However, former Minardi owner and boss Paul Stoddart has warned that equality up and down pitlane is "a lovely dream but it isn't going to happen".

In fact, he said a team like Force India gets about $35 million per year in income from CVC, insisting: "I would have crawled over hot coals to get" that."

Vettel calls 2013 car 'Hungry Heidi'
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel and his mechanics have named the reigning world champion's 2013 Red Bull 'Hungry Heidi'.

Giving his chassis a light-hearted female moniker is now among the German's various superstitious habits, as he bids for a near-unprecedented fourth consecutive drivers' title this season.

Bild newspaper said Vettel and his crew decided on the name just before midnight on Wednesday, over dinner at the Melbourne steakhouse 'Vlado'.

The report said the name is connected to German-American model Heidi Klum, who once had a relationship with former Renault boss Flavio Briatore.

"They (Klum and Vettel) don't even know each other," Klum's father Gunther told Bild. "But of course it is a nice touch."

Meanwhile, Vettel's boss Christian Horner has played down Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton's constant intimations that Vettel – despite his recent successes – is not among the very best drivers on the grid.

"They both seem to have found a mutual admiration with the common denominator being that Sebastian has done all the winning over the past three years," Horner said in Melbourne.

"It is impossible to ignore what Sebastian has achieved."

Vodafone confirms McLaren exit
(GMM) McLaren's title sponsor Vodafone has decided to pull out of formula one.

It emerged mid last year that the lucrative deal could be in doubt beyond 2013, with the Financial Times reporting that the British telecommunications giant was "reviewing" its major sponsorships.

The same newspaper, citing a company spokesman, said Vodafone has indeed decided to end the estimated $75 million per year McLaren deal.

Amid the speculation last year, McLaren decided to replace the Mercedes-bound Lewis Hamilton with Sergio Perez, a Mexican who entered F1 in 2010 with the lucrative backing of the billionaire Carlos Slim-linked Mexican telcom Telmex.

Despite Perez's switch, Telmex still sponsors Sauber, but rumors will surely now intensify about a switch to McLaren to replace Vodafone.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said last September: "I did have a conversation with Carlos Slim … but we have made an offer to Sergio, we are paying him well and there are no side deals.

"I'm not saying that ultimately there won't be other fresh partners coming forward because of it (Perez's signing) but that wasn't the motivating force."

New title sponsor already decided – McLaren
(GMM) McLaren on Thursday swiftly confirmed reports that Vodafone will definitely end its seven-year title sponsorship at the end of 2013.

"Having met and exceeded all the highly ambitious targets that Vodafone had set for its title partnership with McLaren, the company has now decided to focus on business priorities away from formula one sponsorship," the British team announced in a press release.

Amid speculation it will team up with the Sergio Perez-linked Mexican giant Telmex, McLaren announced that its next title sponsor will be announced in December.

"While the current title partnership is in place … McLaren will not disclose its new title partnership, but (the team) will make an exciting announcement on 2nd December 2013, following the last grand prix of the season," said the Woking based team.

As it has since Perez entered F1 in 2010, Telmex currently sponsors Sauber.

Ferrari won't copy Red Bull's 'Newey' approach
(GMM) Ferrari insists it is happy with its technical structure, despite not having a high-profile figure like Adrian Newey in the limelight.

"The goal," said the Italian team's Greek designer Nicholas Tombazis, "is to combine respect with victory, which is what we have failed to do in recent years."

Indeed, in the wake of Kimi Raikkonen's title for the Maranello marque in 2007, the coveted drivers' championships have subsequently gone to McLaren, Brawn, and then Red Bull, whose technical head Newey is widely proclaimed a 'genius'.

"Without knowing the details," Tombazis told Italy's Autosprint in an interview, "I think the way we are organized is quite different.

"We do not have a person who does everything, who pretends to know everything, while all the others are slaves.

"We have a strong team and also quite a 'deep' one, that we have been able to re-examine in recent years because we were not winning.

"From the technical point of view I think it's hard not to feel admiration for Adrian Newey. From the human point of view, I know other people," he added.

Shell launches Lego brand with Ferrari
The Rolex Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix marks the much-anticipated start of the 2013 Formula One World Championship, and to kick-off the event-filled weekend, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa joined media and locals to launch a new Shell promotion in collaboration with Ferrari and the LEGO Group in Australia.

To mark the occasion, the Scuderia Ferrari official drivers, showcased the world’s first life-size Ferrari F1 car model built by LEGO for fans in Melbourne today. At the event Alonso and Massa also raced young fans with six limited edition Ferrari model LEGO cars with pull-back motors, along with two giant LEGO minifigures.

“The life-size LEGO Formula One car is travelling around the world supporting an exciting offer from three significant global brands."

The offer introduces six exclusive Ferrari model LEGO cars based on some of the most iconic vehicles in Ferrari’s motoring history: the Ferrari 150° Italia, the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta passo corto, the Ferrari F40, the Ferrari FXX, the Ferrari 458 Italia and a Scuderia Ferrari Truck.

The limited edition Ferrari model LEGO cars have the smallest pull-back motor ever produced by LEGO Group. They are capable of performing over 300 pulls, propelling the 30 g vehicle up to two meters. Shell and LEGO worked on the development of the mini-motor for over 18 months, expressing the spirit of technological innovation and improved performance that is at the heart of Shell V-Power fuel and Shell’s partnership with Ferrari.

“This campaign represents the joint passion for performance that Shell shares with Ferrari, whilst incorporating the fun and imaginative nature of LEGO. Whether our customers are fans of Ferrari, motorsport or LEGO bricks, we think these toys will provide an exciting opportunity for them."
Jane Morwick, Shell Retail Business Manager

From Monday 18 March, customers will be able to purchase exclusive Ferrari model LEGO cars at Shell Coles Express sites across Australia. A new model will be available each week for six weeks.

Di Resta 'had personality make-over' for 2013
(GMM) According to some, a 'new' Paul di Resta has walked through the 2013 paddock turnstile.

Writing in London's Evening Standard, journalist Matt Majendie calls it an obvious "personality make-over", after Jenson Button's manager Richard Goddard took over the handling of his career.

"(Goddard has) clearly had a word with the Force India driver", Majendie said, after some observers suggested part of the reason for the Scot not getting the call to a bigger team was due to his lack of charisma.

"In formula one, being media savvy and pleasing sponsors is as important as raw speed," said Majendie.

Asked on Thursday by F1's official website, 26-year-old di Resta acknowledged that he has taken the criticism on board and made a change.

"Yes, probably," he said.

"But relationships actually do grow over time, so I think it is also something about being in the paddock long enough to get a reputation and have people's confidence and take things and comments the right way.

"I think it has been a good winter to look at all possible aspects of change," he added.

Button hits back at Hamilton's McLaren criticism
(GMM) Jenson Button on Thursday took issue with former teammate Lewis Hamilton's description of McLaren as an overly-controlling team.

Hamilton, who ended his long association with McLaren over the winter as he moved to Mercedes, said recently the British team is "a really controlled environment where you are restricted to do and say what you are told".

On Thursday, he repeated his claim that he is now far more relaxed in F1.

Button, who was not close friends with Hamilton over the past three seasons and often clashed with the brasher Briton, said in Melbourne that he was "very, very surprised to hear" Hamilton's criticism.

"The freedom I have in this team is phenomenal," he insisted.

"It's so not like that," said Button, referring to Hamilton's description.

"It's a very open team, free team, and a team that will do anything for you."

According to a report in the Associated Press, the difference between McLaren and Mercedes is that the German carmaker can partly fund its team with mass road car sales.

Button agreed: "In this team, you work, you have to work, and perhaps harder than in other teams.

"Initially when I came to the team, it was a shock. You learn to understand, to adapt — that is the job."

Button could struggle to continue winning trend
(GMM) Jenson Button is leaving nothing to chance.

When he won the Australian grand prix in 2009, 2010 and 2012, he stayed in the very same Melbourne hotel room.

The Briton has done the same for this weekend.

And that's not all. "Yesterday I rode the same bike that I've ridden down here for the past three years," he is quoted on Thursday by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"And I drank a beer in the same pub that I always do. Not that I'm superstitious!"

In fact, not all is going to plan for Button, who arguably had the very best car in the field as he finished last season with a win in Brazil.

Bucking the trend up and down pitlane, McLaren has not just evolved its 2012 car for the last season of the V8 engine rules.

The MP4-28 is all new, and the Woking based team is just starting to 'understand' it.

"If this was the Spanish grand prix in Barcelona, I would be worried," said Button in Australia.

"Some of the test laps that were being done there (Barcelona), we couldn't do.

"But Melbourne is completely different."

Indeed it is, and so is the weather in the southern hemisphere, but still it might not be enough. Some believe Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and even Lotus are ahead of McLaren at the moment.

Auto Motor und Sport cited paddock whispers that, on low fuel, Button was a second behind a comparative specification of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes as the test season concluded.

A McLaren engineer is quoted as saying: "It could take three or four races before we can reap the benefits of our approach."

Mercedes to 'protect itself' before McLaren-Honda era
(GMM) Toto Wolff has added fuel to speculation McLaren could be preparing for Honda power in 2015.

It is now strongly rumored that, as per the British team's contract with Mercedes, McLaren will use German engines next year for the start of the new V6 era.

Then, the switch will be made to works Honda power, as the Japanese marque returns to F1 for the new era.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that the situation is making Mercedes nervous, because McLaren – and therefore Honda – could gain a lot of knowledge from Mercedes' approach to the V6 rules before going it alone in 2015.

Wolff, the Mercedes team shareholder and director, is quoted as suggesting the German marque is indeed nervous.

"You can never completely prevent a transfer of technology know-how," he said.

"But we can try to protect ourselves."

His comments would suggest that, given the complexities of the all-new rules next year, Mercedes' efforts to shut out McLaren could be a clear disadvantage for the Woking based team ahead of its rumored Honda switch.

Ousted Petrov's manager joins Caterham
(GMM) The Russian driver is no longer there, but Vitaly Petrov's manager Oksana Kosachenko has re-emerged in a new role for 2013 at Caterham.

A press release issued by Manuscript Agency said the green-clad team "has confirmed" that Kosachenko has joined as commercial director.

She will be in charge of "the acquisition of new commercial partners for the team and will attend races and team events in her new role which started in February 2013".

Petrov has targeted a return to F1 in 2014.

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