Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • Susie Wolff (L) and husband Toto are both involved with the Williams F1 team.

    Wolff to 'resolve conflict of interest'

  • Hamilton helping Mercedes shed old image – Wolff
  • Massa to fight for 2014 Ferrari seat
  • Bianchi slimming down for Marussia debut
  • Webber not Vettel's number 2 – Mateschitz
  • Red Bull to deliver 'nasty surprise' – Sauber
  • Fresh eyesight for Hulkenberg in 2013
  • Fittipaldi to lead FIA Drivers' Commission
  • McLaren extends long-running Sparco partnership New
  • Michael Schumacher at Valencia – on two wheels New
  • Williams to make late call on aerodynamics New
  • Whitmarsh: We have taken risks with new car New

Wolff to 'resolve conflict of interest'
(GMM) Toto Wolff has admitted owning shares in Williams whilst working as F1 rival Mercedes' director is a "conflict of interest".

The 41-year-old Austrian changed teams over the winter, relinquishing his active role at Williams and buying into Brackley based Mercedes.

But Wolff, whose wife is the Williams test driver Susie Wolff, still retains part-ownership of the Oxfordshire based team.

"The situation is certainly not the way I want it," he told Der Standard newspaper.

"I no longer have an operational role (at Williams), but still it's not ideal.

"I need to deal responsibility with the shares and not just sell to anybody.

"I'll try to resolve this conflict of interest as soon as possible," added Wolff.

Hamilton helping Mercedes shed old image – Wolff
(GMM) Mercedes is bidding to shed its "conservative" image, new director and team co-owner Toto Wolff has revealed.

Over the winter, it has been all change at the German team; swapping Michael Schumacher with Lewis Hamilton, Norbert Haug with Austrian Wolff and Niki Lauda, and soon set to push ahead with McLaren's ex technical chief Paddy Lowe.

"At Mercedes, we no longer want to be so conservative," Wolff is quoted by Austrian television ORF 1.

"The new Mercedes (road car) models are young and sporty."

He admitted that hiring 2008 world champion Hamilton, who is replacing the 44-year-old seven time world champion Schumacher, is a key factor.

"Lewis not only has an immense driving talent, but a great technical understanding.

"He also has the right feel for the staff and how to motivate them. After the first two days of testing, he knew all 50 team members at the track by name.

"The image of him that is sometimes drawn by the media does not correspond to reality," insisted Wolff.

Wolff admitted, however, that with all the changes come higher expectations.

"We have been brought in to turn the team around," he said, referring also to Lauda, "and if we cannot (do that), we're gone.

"But I'm convinced we can, and the board knows what resources and time we need."

Massa to fight for 2014 Ferrari seat
(GMM) Relieved to have rescued his career from the brink in the second half of last season, Felipe Massa has admitted he does not know if he can also keep his Ferrari seat for 2014.

"I don't know what will happen," the 31-year-old, who will begin his eighth consecutive season with the fabled Maranello marque this weekend, told Speed Week.

Albeit with an uncompetitive Ferrari, Massa had a dire start to the 2012 season, and many now see the forthcoming campaign as yet another final chance for him to shine off the back of a fallow few years.

"For sure I will make every effort to continue to drive for the grandest and most famous formula one team," he said in Rio de Janeiro, "which has become a second family for me.

"Of course it depends on the results, so I am concentrating only on the world championship."

Massa said he paid little attention to those who wrote him off early last season, and will pay no attention if they do the same in 2013.

"It's simply part of the formula one world, but I think I proved to everyone that I can deal with difficult situations.

"Even after a very complicated first half of the season (in 2012) I was not swayed by the rumors and I fought back on the track.

"Because of that, I can attack again this year," he added.

Bianchi slimming down for Marussia debut
(GMM) Jules Bianchi is on a race to slim down ahead of his formula one debut in Australia this weekend.

The Ferrari-linked Frenchman secured the Marussia race seat at the eleventh hour, after contracted Brazilian driver Luiz Razia's sponsorship money failed to materialize.

Speed Week reports that 23-year-old Bianchi has been put on a training and diet regime to shed 2 kilograms.

Bianchi admitted the weight loss is "because of the weight distribution" of his 2013 car.

"Now there's only salad for lunch, which should help, even though I am hungry all the time," he said during an interview for French television.

Webber not Vettel's number 2 – Mateschitz
(GMM) He might have won the last three world championships on the trot, but Sebastian Vettel is not Red Bull's number 1 driver.

That is the claim of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire who said Vettel's veteran teammate Mark Webber will continue to enjoy equal status in 2013.

"When he (Webber) has a strong day, he is a tough opponent for Vettel," the 68-year-old said during an interview with Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.

"He has a hard time against Vettel, but the team guarantees him the same material and the same treatment," added Mateschitz.

"We are pleased to have two number one drivers," he insisted.

The fact remains, however, that Australian Webber only has a deal in place for this season, while Toro Rosso hopefuls Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne champ at the bit.

Asked if he has a chance of joining the senior team in 2014, Frenchman Vergne told RMC Sport: "It's too early to tell.

"Nobody is saying that Webber will retire in 2014. Maybe he will win races, maybe even the championship. For now, there are too many 'ifs' about 2014," he added.

Meanwhile, Mateschitz admitted that Mercedes has made progress over the winter, and named Kimi Raikkonen as a possible dark horse for the 2013 title race.

But he told Kleine Zeitung newspaper: "We assume that we (Red Bull) will surely once again be among the top two or three teams."

Red Bull to deliver 'nasty surprise' – Sauber
(GMM) Peter Sauber does not believe Red Bull will struggle to defend its world championships in 2013.

Based on winter testing, some believe the Austrian squad could be outpaced in Melbourne this weekend by Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus, with McLaren also not far adrift.

Sauber, founder of the Swiss team that bears his name, agrees that Mercedes' pace at the end of the recent Barcelona test was "a clear exclamation mark", with Ferrari "not far away".

However, writing in Sonntagsblick newspaper, 69-year-old Sauber said he does not believe Red Bull is struggling.

"Anyone who concludes that they (Red Bull) are not right at the front are definitely in for a nasty surprise," he said.

"They have so many resources that they can always respond to difficult situations. You will see," added Sauber.

Fresh eyesight for Hulkenberg in 2013
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has arrived in Australia for the first race of 2013 with a clearer view than usual.

Switzerland's Blick newspaper reports that the Sauber driver, previously a user of contact lenses whilst at the wheel, has over the winter had his eyesight corrected with laser therapy.

"I had no problem with contact lenses," the 25-year-old German confirmed, "but this makes things easier."

Fittipaldi to lead FIA Drivers' Commission
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi has been named as the President of the FIA's new Drivers' Commission, overseeing the rights and interests of drivers in various forms of motorsport. Sébastien Loeb, who has a total of nine World Rally Championship (WRC) titles to his name, will act as Vice-President.

In addition to Fittipaldi and Loeb's leading roles, 1992 Formula 1 title-winner Nigel Mansell, ex-HRT and Caterham driver Karun Chandhok and former Marussia tester María de Villota have been brought in to focus solely on the single-seater category.

Members of the FIA Drivers' Commission:

President: Emerson Fittipaldi
Vice-President: Sebastien Loeb
Single-Seaters: Nigel Mansell, Karun Chandhok, Maria de Villota
Sports Cars, GT, Touring Car: Emanuele Pirro, Yvan Muller, Adrian Fernandez
Rally, Cross Country Rally: Nasser Al-Attiyah, Marcus Gronholm, Daniel Elena
Other disciplines: Kenneth Hansen, Danilo Rossi, Keiko Ihara

McLaren extends long-running Sparco partnership
Formula One team McLaren has renewed its partnership with Sparco for another three years.

The Italian company will continue to supply parts such as safety belts, steering wheels and race suits to the Woking-based outfit, extending an association dating back to 1996. As an official supplier, Sparco will also have branding on the team's official website, as well as on the race products used.

"At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we constantly strive to find a competitive edge, while ensuring the safety off everyone in our team," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "Sparco's commitment to R&D, their expertise developed in over three decades at the cutting edge of motor sport and their passion for racing makes it the ideal partner for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes."

Sparco chairman Aldino Bellazzini added: "Our strategic partnerships with leading teams like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes enable us to work with the leading drivers, engineers and pit crew in global motorsport. That close relationship allows us to innovate and deliver new technology which increases safety and enhances performance."

The 2013 Formula One season begins in Melbourne this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher at Valencia – on two wheels
F1 legend Michael Schumacher, who retired from grand prix for the final time at the end of last year, is back on track at Valencia today (Monday) – with two-wheels.

Schumacher, who entered several motorcycle races during his previous F1 sabbatical, has been confirmed as riding a Honda CBR1000RR at the Spanish circuit during a tire test for the German IDM Superbike Championship (pictured).

Seven time F1 champion Schumacher made his most high profile motorcycle outing – a guest ride on a Ducati MotoGP machine – in a public test at Valencia in 2007.

That test, which marked only his second appearance on a MotoGP prototype, saw Schumi turn heads with a best lap time just five seconds from the MotoGP race record.

However his love of two-wheels has not been without consequences, a neck injury from a two-wheel spill prevented Schumacher accepting Ferrari's offer to replace the recovering Felipe Massa during 2009.

Williams to make late call on aerodynamics
Williams will decide after Friday practice on which of two aerodynamic packages they will use in this weekend's Formula One season-opener in Australia, according to technical director Mike Coughlan.

The former world champions caused controversy last month when they launched their new FW35 car with the governing FIA swiftly declaring the aerodynamics around the exhaust exits would be illegal if used in a race.

Williams replaced the offending design for the final pre-season test in Barcelona and Coughlan said in a team preview on Monday that the final specification for Sunday's race in Melbourne had yet to be decided.

"We have some further aero tests planned for Friday with both drivers in Australia. The results so far have been interesting and so we'll make our final decision on Friday evening as to what we will run over the weekend," he said.

"In either case we feel we have two strong aero packages, each with their own benefits, and so the nature of the circuit and temperatures we find will dictate which package we choose."

Coughlan said last week that Williams, who have Finland's Valtteri Bottas making his F1 debut alongside Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, believed their original interpretation of the rules had been legal.

"It was a trivial piece of bodywork but (FIA race director and technical head) Charlie (Whiting) clarified it and said 'No, this is how I've interpreted this and that will be illegal'," he told Reuters.

"One of the things Charlie said was 'I can see what you've done is OK but the logical extension of that is this and that can't be OK'."

Coughlan said Williams, the last team to unveil their new car, had been "testing the robustness of the law" as all competitors do in designing their new cars.

"Formula One is full of that, where people are playing – especially in testing," he said.

"There are two techniques – where you ask Charlie and get an answer or you do something in an area where you know you are close to the limit and you wait to see what the outfall from that will be." Yahoo! Eurosport UK

Whitmarsh: We have taken risks with new car
McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh says his squad has taken more risks than usual in its approach to the 2013 Formula 1 campaign, with the MP4-28 chassis undergoing substantial design changes from its multiple race winning predecessor.

Although Whitmarsh admits that it would have been an easy choice to carry over the majority of its previous car and avoid teething problems during pre-season testing, he says modifications were needed to ensure a strong development program.

"Clearly we have taken some risks in changing the car from last year," Whitmarsh explained ahead of the opening race in Melbourne. "We finished last season with undoubtedly the quickest car and it would have been easy to continue to develop it and make it quicker for the start of this year. But we've made a lot of changes to the overall package in the belief that you have to be competitive over 19 races and develop it.

"We have given ourselves a platform that is new to ensure we have got the development opportunities over the course of the season. But we'll see; I think we will have an interesting season and I certainly hope we are going to be competitive."

McLaren heads into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix having won three of the last five races in the country. New Mercedes recruit Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in 2008, while Jenson Button triumphed for the Woking-based outfit in 2010 and 2012.

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