Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • Romain Grosjean

    'Problem child' Grosjean keeps Lotus seat

  • FIA 'nervous' about F1's return to Bahrain – report
  • Webber coped better with early-season RB8 – Vettel
  • Lauda re-thinking Mercedes' Christmas holiday plans
  • Kobayashi aims for F1 return in 2014
  • Schumacher flags possibility of 'small belly'
  • Caterham 'close' to completing 2013 lineup
  • Sacked F1 doctor admits fury at FIA
  • Horner – I would have ousted Massa
  • Boullier: We have two exceptional drivers
  • Haug takes blame for Mercedes failure New

'Problem child' Grosjean keeps Lotus seat
(GMM) Lotus has ended an intense period of speculation by announcing Romain Grosjean is staying with the team in 2013.

At the same time, former Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi admitted he will not be on the F1 grid next season.

Lotus, and major sponsor Total, had reportedly considered ousting 26-year-old Frenchman Grosjean in the wake of his often impressive yet tumultuous return to F1 this year.

Swiss-born Grosjean said late on Monday: "It's superb to have the support of everyone at Enstone."

Basler Zeitung, a Swiss newspaper, reacted: "The problem child gets his toy back."

FIA 'nervous' about F1's return to Bahrain – report
(GMM) The FIA is "nervous" ahead of formula one's still-controversial return to Bahrain in 2013.

After the 2011 race was cancelled due to civil unrest in the island Kingdom, the sport's return to Sakhir this year was hugely controversial.

And "top-level figures" at the sport's Paris-based governing body "are already nervous" that the 2013 edition – scheduled for next late April – will be "another horrifying embarrassment", according to Times correspondent Kevin Eason.

"It was a public relations disaster on every level," Eason quoted an unnamed source as saying.

"The race will go on but you have to wonder what will happen this time.

"The demonstrators were not very organized in April and they probably feel they missed the chance to use the race as a platform.

"This time, they have plenty of warning that the race is on and plenty of time to make plans. It is fingers-crossed time," the source added.

Webber coped better with early-season RB8 – Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has admitted his teammate Mark Webber initially had a better handle of Red Bull's 2012 car.

Ultimately, on the way to collecting his third consecutive drivers' title this year, German Vettel outscored Australian Webber by more than 100 points.

And Webber won two grands prix in 2012, both in the first half of the season, compared to Vettel's five.

A report in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said Red Bull's renowned designer, Adrian Newey, "took half a season" to get the RB8 fully up to speed.

"I just felt more comfortable in the car (in the second half of the season)," Vettel explained.

"The balance was better for me than it was at the beginning, which caused problems especially in qualifying.

"For a long time I was not happy with the exhaust, even though it brought more downforce than the old version.

"I couldn't play with the car the way I wanted, to fit my driving style. I get my speed in the corners in the entry, while Mark is better at the exit.

"Only the last 'Coanda'-solution got me close to what we had last year," added Vettel.

Lauda (L) with Gerhard Berger. Lauda may play scrooge and cancel Christmas at Mercedes

Lauda re-thinking Mercedes' Christmas holiday plans
(GMM) Niki Lauda is looking to tweak the Christmas holiday plans of team staff, as he bids to get Mercedes up to speed for 2013.

Germany's Bild newspaper said that, since the triple world champion started his new job as Mercedes' non-executive chairman, he often "arrives unannounced" at the team's Brackley headquarters.

The report said Lauda, 63, has concluded that "the communication between the departments of the factory is in great need of improvement".

Bild claimed that great Austrian Lauda has also been studying the vacation plans of Brackley's 450 staff, with many to be completely absent in December and January.

"Understandable after a long season," said Bild. "But that is when ideas for the new car are needed."

Lauda told Welt am Sonntag newspaper: "I am in England very often; right now just to analyze things.

"It is interesting that Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were always in the top five at the beginning of the year, and we won in Shanghai.

"Everything was on track until suddenly it was completely backwards. Together with Ross Brawn we have to ensure that never happens again."

He also confirmed that Christmas will not be a period for quiet reflection.

"When everyone else is on vacation, I will use the time to do everything to bring Mercedes to the front again — because that's where we belong," said Lauda.

Kobayashi aims for F1 return in 2014
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi has announced he will not be on the F1 grid in 2013.

Dropped by Sauber, the exciting Japanese driver had been raising money via a fans' website in a bid to secure an alternate race seat for next season.

Alan Jones, Australia's 1980 world champion, publicly backed his campaign.

"Perhaps now is the right time for corporations in Japan to get behind (Kobayashi) to secure his future in the sport," he said last week.

"Kamui is the best so far from Japan to compete in formula one," added Jones.

But after Lotus late on Monday confirmed that Romain Grosjean is staying put in 2013, 26-year-old Kobayashi acknowledged that he is dropping out of F1 for now.

"I was in the position to bring a budget of eight million euros at least," he announced on his website.

"Unfortunately, the time was still short and I am not able to secure a seat with a competitive F1 team for 2013.

"I have to admit that it is very sad and I feel sorry for the fans and Japanese companies who supported me. But I am still confident to make it happen in 2014.

"I would like to stop the donation for now and while I will save all the money for 2014, I will start to look at what is the best option for 2013 and also 2014.

"My main priority is to secure a competitive F1 seat in 2014. I have no interest in racing in any other categories," he said.

Kobayashi, likeable and popular also for his exciting wheel-to-wheel style and audacious overtaking, debuted for Toyota late in 2009 before being signed by Sauber full time.

Schumacher flags possibility of 'small belly'
(GMM) Michael Schumacher has admitted his fitness could slip now that he is returning to retirement.

But the great seven time world champion, who after almost two decades on the F1 grid is now retiring for a second time, told his fans not to worry about him.

"Why would anyone worry what Michael Schumacher is going to do when he stops?" the 43-year-old is quoted by RTL.

"He has a family and is just happy to spend time with them and not have too many plans.

"And, anyway, my calendar will be full next year."

Schumacher would not say what those plans are, but sources insist he has totally ruled out a management role, such as to replace Mercedes' departing Norbert Haug.

The German joked that, the next time some fans see him, he might have grown a "small belly".

Caterham 'close' to completing 2013 lineup
(GMM) Caterham is almost ready to complete its 2013 driver lineup, new team boss Cyril Abiteboul has revealed.

Having fielded Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov this year, Caterham has already announced that Frenchman Charles Pic will drive one of the green cars next season.

Finn Kovalainen's hopes of staying in F1 are now pinned on Caterham's plans, but the sponsored drivers Petrov, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde and Bruno Senna are reportedly all also looking to the Tony Fernandes-founded team.

"There are different options," Abiteboul admitted to F1's official website.

Russian Petrov's hopes appeared to get a boost last week, when a delegation for his sponsor Russian Helicopters visited Caterham's factory.

"One option," Abiteboul said, "is someone who he (Pic) can learn from and who he can use as his benchmark for what we want from both our drivers.

"Another option, more radical, is to accept the fact that 2013 is a transition year that we use to continue building the team before a period of greater stability in 2014, when a lot of other things in the package will change," he added.

"Both types of candidates are out there, and we are close to making a decision."

Sacked F1 doctor admits fury at FIA
(GMM) Gary Hartstein has admitted his fury at F1's governing body.

Last month, the 57-year-old American revealed on Twitter that the Jean Todt-led FIA had decided not to renew his contract as F1's chief doctor beyond 2012.

He said at the time: "Not sure about the 'why's' of the decision, but not down to me to know."

But Hartstein's tone changed radically this week, when he admitted to his almost 8,000 Twitter followers that he is "righteously pissed off" to have lost his job.

"I might launch a crusade to get some answers, or get my f***ing job back, or let the world know what's really going on on the medical side of the FIA.

"Understand this: I am not bitter or sad," Hartstein insisted. "I am seriously angry. And that's bad.

"Not sure how or when, but there's dark clouds a-gatherin'. This is gonna be a f***ing blast!"

Horner – I would have ousted Massa
(GMM) Felipe Massa is lucky to have kept his seat at Ferrari.

That is the view of Christian Horner, the boss of Ferrari's chief championship rival in 2012, the reigning title winners Red Bull.

Asked if he would have inked a new deal with Brazilian Massa in 2013, Horner admitted: "No, I don't think I would have.

"Unfortunately, it's a tough business, and results-based," he told the book The Official Formula 1 Season Review 2012.

"You've got to look at what the guy in the other car (Fernando Alonso) – which we must assume is equal equipment – is achieving."

Horner said it is obvious that Ferrari did consider axing Massa, who made his debut for the fabled Maranello based team alongside Michael Schumacher in 2006.

"They obviously had a look at other drivers – at least one of ours! – so they were obviously concerned about his form, but their options seemed to become limited," he said.

Horner said Sergio Perez, who was eventually signed by McLaren for 2013 and beyond, initially seemed "a shoe-in" for Massa's seat.

"Then Felipe obviously picked his form up in the last third of the year," he added.

"They were obviously deliberating – the messages coming out of Maranello confirmed that – and probably when the music stopped they realized that the option they had was best for them."

During Ferrari's recent Maranello Christmas party, team president Luca di Montezemolo joked about Massa's mid-season return to form in 2013.

"I don't know where you went in the first part of the year," he smiled to Massa, "but I am very pleased you came back."

Boullier: We have two exceptional drivers
Eric Boullier, Team Principal of Lotus F1, says he has two 'exceptional drivers' for the 2013 campaign, with Romain Grosjean being confirmed alongside Kimi Räikkönen for a second term on Monday. The 39-year-old, whose team finished fourth in the Constructors' standings this year, is hoping continuity can lead to more success.

"Romain is a great talent and we are pleased that he is continuing with us for a second season," said Boullier, whose management company Gravity looks after the interests of Grosjean. "With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead.

"Both drivers worked very well together and I think there is the potential of even better things from the season ahead. We were regular visitors to podiums in 2012 and we certainly intend to continue with this trend in 2013."

Lotus claimed one victory and a further nine podium finishes in 2012. Räikkönen finished the year with 207 points to his name, while Grosjean collected a total of 96.

Haug takes blame for Mercedes failure
Haug announced last week that he will be stepping down from his role at the end of this month after 22 years in charge of the German car manufacturer's motor racing activities.

Speaking at length for the first time since news of his departure was made public, Haug said Mercedes' tally of just one win from three years in F1 cost him his job.

"This was a decision made after the last race," he told AUTOSPORT. "We had a report in Stuttgart and we reached a mutual agreement that we split. I take the responsibility for not having been successful enough in three years.

"We were quite OK with our pace in the first third of the season – but then we dropped back. So we need changes, and I fully accept that.

"There is no bad feeling between the board and I. We are splitting amicably and we have found a good solution for both sides."

He added: "We should have done a better job. We changed to the 60 per cent wind tunnel in the middle of the year; we suffered a little bit with the RRA [Resource Restriction Agreement] and personnel numbers, but I don't want to have any excuses. My job was not good enough.

"I take full responsibility for that. Even if I don't build the car, I am in charge. And if I was responsible for the victory in China, I also have to be responsible for everything else that happened."

Haug has no immediate plans once his current commitments with Mercedes-Benz are over, and will only make a decision next year.

"I will still be involved in the first quarter of the year, and then I am a free agent. I have no thoughts on what I will do – but things will settle down.

"I am happy to have some time for skiing in the first part of the year, and my friends called me and say it is great I have the time now. This year I was away for 34 weekends out of 38 between February and the final race, which is quite a lot."

Regarding the possibility of a restructuring at Mercedes, or a replacement being lined up, Haug said: "I do not know about that. It is not my position to judge that, and this will be done by the board."

Haug is sure, however, that Mercedes will be able to achieve its target of more wins and title success in the future.

"I am 100 per cent convinced of that," he said. "It takes time and we should be further down the road than we are, but I think the guys will be fine.

"We will not be the world beaters in the first step, but I am sure Niki [Lauda] and Ross [Brawn] will give it everything. I will support them, and should there be any need for further discussions or, advice, they can always contact me – but they are responsible."

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