Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Ferrari pulled a smart move to improve Alonso's starting position
    Vettel was holding off Hamilton despite DRS until he was balked by Karthikeyan

    Ferrari checked with FIA before changing Austin grid

  • Brazil finale to be 'uncomfortable' for Vettel – Alguersuari
  • Karthikeyan says FIA on his side after Vettel criticism
  • 'Joy of racing' makes Schu comeback a success – Andretti
  • No decision yet over Ecclestone bribery charge
  • Force India decision would almost complete 2013 grid
  • Renault powers Red Bull Racing to third consecutive Constructors’ Championship title
  • Webber: Still nerves over Red Bull reliability
  • Vettel blames Karthikeyan for loss of victory
  • Vendors report continued food, alcohol shortages in Austin
  • Circuit of The Americas celebrates inaugural F1 USGP
  • Coca-Cola Confirms F1 Sponsorship Interest
  • Ecclestone Says F1 Will Race In Germany In '13
  • FIA Limits Use Of F1's DRS On Fridays, Saturdays During '13 Season

Ferrari checked with FIA before changing Austin grid
(GMM) Stefano Domenicali had his head held high when he answered a clear "yes" to a post-race question from the media on Sunday.

Just before the race, Ferrari's team boss had approved mechanics breaking a seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox not to fix the unit, but simply to create a penalty that would benefit Fernando Alonso.

Asked if that is within the so-called 'spirit' of the rules, Domenicali insisted: "Yes, otherwise I would not have done it.

"It is something that is within our possibility to do it," said the Italian, revealing that the famous Maranello based team even checked with the FIA beforehand.

As ever in F1, the purists were split over the decency of the Massa sabotage, but most had to agree that legendary team founder Enzo Ferrari would have approved.

But a rival team boss is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport: "That is not what the gearbox rule is for."

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh was happy to put his name to his critique.

"Lest we forget, when Fernando was with us it was not doing those things that meant that Fernando left us," he said.

"You all have to go racing the way you see fit. But I think if I had qualified on the fast side of the grid and then been moved to the slow side I would have been very pissed off."

Britain's Daily Mail said the Massa drop is "at odds with the wider sporting ethos", while the Times said F1 should be about racing on track "as fairly as possible".

Domenicali pointed out that Ferrari was at least honest.

"We could have easily simulated something but we wanted to be completely transparent. If another team boss said we did not make the right decision, he's lying."

Indeed, Domenicali said Ferrari made the decision so late in the day because there were rumors Red Bull was ready to respond by breaking into Mark Webber's gearbox.

"That's part of the strategic decisions. It's part of the game," he insisted.

Massa, who has signed on for another year in 2013, took the decision on the chin but admitted he was not "jumping for joy".

"It's difficult to find a driver like me," smiled the 31-year-old, whose countryman, friend and former Ferrari number 2 Rubens Barrichello was in the paddock on Sunday.

Brazil finale to be 'uncomfortable' for Vettel – Alguersuari
(GMM) For superstitious Sebastian Vettel, the fact he is 'unlucky 13' points ahead of Fernando Alonso on the cusp of his third drivers' title will not be lost on the German.

"Let's see if it will be lucky in seven days time in Sao Paulo," said Ferrari in a post-race statement.

Actually, the points gap gives Vettel a huge advantage for the 2012 finale, because even if Alonso can drag his less competitive car to the top of the Interlagos podium, Red Bull's German could then finish just fourth and still be champion.

"Maybe on paper that chance is not so big, maybe 25 per cent," Spaniard Alonso, who has been quoting much bigger percentage chances recently, said after Austin.

"But deep down, I feel it (the chance) is much more than that.

"Anything can happen at Interlagos and we saw again how important reliability can be, didn't we?"

He is referring to Mark Webber's failure in the sister Red Bull on Sunday with yet another alternator problem.

And there is also a forecast of rain for Sunday in Brazil.

"Clearly, if it's dry and we have a normal race, one can expect Red Bull to be in front of everyone and us on the third or fourth row, so the more unknown factors there are, the better it is for us," said Alonso.

Jaime Alguersuari, a former Red Bull-contracted driver but a Spaniard like Alonso, thinks Vettel will be heading to Sao Paulo feeling nervous.

Asked if the title is now all but decided, he told Mundo Deportivo: "For the best car yes, for the best driver, no.

"Brazil will be a very uncomfortable race for Vettel, and very comfortable for Fernando," he said.

"Vettel can only lose the championship, because in theory he has already won. But theory doesn't give you ten points.

"Fernando, who at the age of 31 knows something about formula one after 11 years, is already the de-facto runner-up and so he can only win.

"Who has been involved in elite sport knows what can go wrong when you are defending an advantage, and how well you can go when you have nothing to lose.

"So Brazil will give us something very interesting," said Alguersuari.

Karthikeyan says FIA on his side after Vettel criticism
(GMM) Narain Karthikeyan has hit back at Sebastian Vettel, following the latest bout of criticism from the reigning world champion.

Vettel's Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, pointed the finger at HRT's Karthikeyan after Vettel lost the lead of the US grand prix on Sunday to Lewis Hamilton.

"The race unfortunately hinged on one backmarker that didn't use his mirrors," he said.

Vettel screamed angrily into his radio after losing the place to Hamilton, and some immediately thought the German was being critical of the McLaren driver.

"It was not targeted at Lewis," Vettel clarified afterwards, "it was more targeted at the backmarker which gave a nice big envelope with an invitation to Lewis."

Red Bull and Vettel claim Karthikeyan failed to get out of the way to be lapped fast enough, which gave the chasing Hamilton the momentum to launch his successful pass.

Vettel and Indian Karthikeyan already have an unhappy history, after the German called him a "cucumber" following another track run-in earlier this year.

Now, after Vettel's latest criticism, Karthikeyan said: "I can't hear the bulls**t anymore.

"At the drivers' briefing Charlie Whiting told us very clearly that it is not possible to let the leaders past in the very fast first sector," the HRT driver is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"Charlie told us that we should let the faster cars go from turn 8, the first slower corner, which is exactly what I did. Vettel was at the briefing. Did he not hear?

"He complains too often and too hard."

Indeed, one of Vettel's closest friends in the paddock is Timo Glock, but on this occasion he is siding with fellow backmarker Karthikeyan.

"We drive our own race in these fast corners, because there are so many pieces of rubber off the racing line.

"The rule is that you have to let them pass by the third blue flag, not before."

F1 legend Niki Lauda also saw nothing extraordinary about the Vettel/Karthikeyan incident.

"Lapping cars is always better for the pursuer than for the leader," he said.

'Joy of racing' makes Schu comeback a success – Andretti
(GMM) Mario Andretti says Michael Schumacher's three-year return to F1 was a success because he enjoyed it.

"He never lost the love and joy of racing," Andretti, the naturalized American who won his F1 title in 1978, said at the US grand prix on Sunday.

"That's the thing I most admire," added the 72-year-old, who at the brand new Circuit of the Americas interviewed podium champions Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

A long way down the results sheet, in an abysmal sixteenth place, was the seven time world champion Schumacher, whose failed comeback with Mercedes will finally end in Brazil next weekend.

"Of course his comeback was not a great success," Andretti is quoted by SID news agency, "but the important thing is that he enjoyed it.

"And if he does retire for good, we will miss him. He's still the best of all time," he added.

As for the 2012 title head-to-head between Vettel and Alonso, Andretti admitted he probably admires the achievements of Ferrari's Spaniard a little more.

"Alonso has no weaknesses," the Italian-born former Ferrari driver is quoted by El Pais, a Spanish newspaper.

"His car was always outpaced but he has taken full advantage of every opportunity.

"Vettel's talent is unquestioned, but clearly he has the best car. Fernando deserves the title more because he has had the most personal influence on the results.

"Early on, Vettel was not happy with his car; he only began to dominate in the last third of the championship, when Red Bull found a way to improve the RB8.

"Now, Webber is also very fast, and when both drivers in a team are ahead it means the car is very competitive.

"Fernando thinks he deserves it more because he is at a disadvantage compared to Vettel, and I agree with him," added Andretti.

Fellow F1 legend Niki Lauda, however, warned the sport to brace for more and more Vettel success.

"It's not only that Seb can break all of Michael's records — he will break them!" he told Bild newspaper.

"Red Bull can give him the best car again and again."

No decision yet over Ecclestone bribery charge
(GMM) Contrary to the latest media speculation, German prosecutors have not yet decided to charge Bernie Ecclestone with bribery.

The German news magazine Focus had claimed the Munich public office had, after a long investigation, finally made the decision to pursue the F1 chief executive officially.

Former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who accepted Ecclestone's millions in alleged bribes, is already in jail.

Focus said recent efforts to broker a 'deal' between Ecclestone and the prosecutors, whereby the 82-year-old Briton is charged but given only a suspended sentence if he pays back the millions, had failed.

But chief prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch would not confirm the 'deal' talks, and he further told DPA news agency that a decision about whether Ecclestone will be charged is still yet to be taken.

Force India decision would almost complete 2013 grid
(GMM) F1's grid for 2013 is almost complete, with the vacancy at Force India now the most sought after job in the paddock.

On paper, only Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Toro Rosso have finalized and announced their race drivers for next season.

But Williams is hotly tipped to pair Pastor Maldonado with Valtteri Bottas, while Sauber is expected to sign Esteban Gutierrez to partner Nico Hulkenberg.

Moreover, Timo Glock is expected to be joined at Marussia by Max Chilton, and Caterham is likely to field Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.

Lotus is ready to keep Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, and has even confirmed the latter appointment, but Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that there is some uncertainty over Raikkonen's salary.

Journalist Michael Schmidt said the Finn has been "more expensive" than Lotus expected, having initially agreed to pay him a lucrative bonus for each point scored.

So far, the 33-year-old has a whopping 206 points on the board.

Even so, the most open 2012 vacancy is really at Force India, whose Paul di Resta will certainly stay put for next season.

His teammate, according to Auto Motor und Sport, will be selected from a long shortlist of more than a dozen suitors.

The report said names including Jules Bianchi, Heikki Kovalainen, Bruno Senna, Davide Valsecchi, Luiz Razia, Johnny Cecotto Jr and Rodolfo Gonzalez were all on the list.

Even Rubens Barrichello – who was in Austin at the weekend – and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve expressed interest, Schmidt reported.

After a meeting in Mumbai last week, however, Vijay Mallya-led Force India reportedly narrowed the list to a much shorter shortlist, having ruled out the veterans and also the 'pay drivers'.

Auto Motor und Sport said 2011 Toro Rosso teammates Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, and former Force India racer Adrian Sutil, now have the best chances of all.

Force India is tipped to make an announcement in Brazil.

Renault powers Red Bull Racing to third consecutive Constructors’ Championship title
Sebastian Vettel’s second place at the United States Grand Prix sealed the third consecutive constructors’ championship for Red Bull Racing and Renault.

The result comes after 440 points, seven wins, eight pole positions and seven fastest laps for the duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber so far this year. The crown is also the 11th constructors’ title that Renault has taken in the sport.

The Red Bull Racing-Renault partnership started in 2007 when the RS27, Renault’s 2.4 liter V8 developed in Viry-Châtillon, was integrated into the Red Bull Racing team chassis. The first podium came in the inaugural season, with the first-ever Red Bull Racing-Renault win arriving in China 2009. The RS27 has since powered Red Bull to a total of 34 wins, three constructors’ championships and 1794.5 points in just over five years.

Carlos Ghosn, President of Renault, commented, ‘On behalf of Renault and all our employees I would like to congratulate Renault Sport F1 and Red Bull Racing for this latest success. Eleven world constructors’ titles for Renault in a little over 35 years in the sport is a considerable achievement.

This result fully justifies Renault’s decision to return to F1 engine supply and will provide additional motivation as we move forward to our next challenges : continued success in F1 and preparing for the introduction of the new engine regulations in 2014.

Webber: Still nerves over Red Bull reliability
Mark Webber believes Red Bull should be apprehensive about reliability following another alternator failure in the US. The Australian was running third when he was forced to retire from the race in which the team won the Constructors’ Championship.

Although Sebastian Vettel’s collection of 18 points for second position was enough to seal the teams’ title, the German is still fighting in the drivers’ race with one event to go.

“In the end, it was the alternator again," Webber explained in Austin, having handed a podium position to Vettel’s rival Fernando Alonso. “That meant we lost the batteries, the KERS, our gearbox synchronization and so on. I knew I was in trouble.

“It’s disappointing when you lose such a good result, both for myself and the team, and there are now more nerves about our reliability, for sure."

Earlier in the season, Vettel lost an almost certain victory through alternator failure in Valencia and both cars dropped out of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Vettel blames Karthikeyan for loss of victory
Both Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner both pointed towards Narain Karthikeyan for failing to win in Austin. The Indian’s HRT was the last car the Red Bull lapped before he was caught and passed in the DRS zone by Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, which duly went on to win.

“I seemed to have everything under control, but traffic is quite a problem here and it really didn’t work in my favor," Vettel explained after finishing second, thus increasing his championship lead to 13 points over Fernando Alonso with one race to go. “I basically sent an invitation to pass to Lewis, having gone past Karthikeyan."

Shortly after the overtake, Vettel was heard to be extremely irritated over a team radio communication which was broadcast to television viewers over FOM’s world feed.

“Lewis was close enough to the rear wing and it didn’t matter which side I picked (to defend)," Vettel continued, with Hamilton having darted right and missed the Red Bull by centimeters. “I was a shame to lose the lead but we did do everything we could."

Should Vettel pick up a third straight crown in Brazil next weekend, he will become the ninth man to win three F1 world title since the championship was inaugurated in 1950.

Vendors report continued food, alcohol shortages in Austin
Workers at a drink stand near Turn 1 said they ran out of beer several times and didn’t have some premium beers like Stella Artois and Dos Equis all day Sunday.

“I would say we lost thousands because we ran out of beer," said Mika Scott, a Buda resident who was working the stand as a fundraiser for Buda Youth Sports. “It was insane we ran out of beer at a Formula One event."

Scott said most of Saturday and Sunday the stand only had Miller Lite and would run out completely for about 30 minutes at a time.

Those selling alcohol at Turn 1 reported that they did not have the issues running credit cards that they did on Friday and Saturday.

One volunteer at a food stand who declined to be named said, “You always have problems when you run out of items you can’t get delivery on."

Circuit of the Americas officials have not yet responded to an email inquiring how widespread the food shortage issues were today.

Circuit of The Americas celebrates inaugural F1 USGP
Circuit of The Americas today entered the record books as the first purpose-built Formula 1 racetrack in the country to host its own Grand Prix. An exuberant crowd of 117,429 packed the new 330-acre facility to watch Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claim his fourth Grand Prix of the season and his second United States Grand Prix victory in five years having won the 2007 Formula 1 race last hosted in Indianapolis. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, current points leader in the drivers’ standings, was second with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third. McLaren was awarded the constructor’s trophy for Austin’s inaugural event. Hamilton’s victory means both the driver’s and constructor’s titles won’t be decided until the season’s final race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, next weekend.

The $400 million sports and entertainment venue, completed only days before its first major event, received rave reviews from the tens of thousands of fans who traveled the world to witness Formula 1’s return to the United States. The 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit produced several opportunities for overtaking, highlighted by Hamilton slipping past pole sitter Vettel on Turn 12 to take the race lead during Lap 43. Fans packed the stands and general admission areas to cheer on their favorites and to watch Hamilton pass under the checkered flag and back into U.S. racing history. Total attendance for the three-day event was 265,499 with Friday’s practice sessions and Saturday’s qualifying rounds drawing 65,360 and 82,710, respectively.

“The entire Circuit of The Americas team thanks our guests, our community, our new Formula One family and racing fans around the world for making our first Grand Prix such a remarkable experience," Circuit Chairman Bobby Epstein said. “The racing was spectacular. The crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative, and we showed the world that Formula 1 has a new U.S. home in Austin, Texas."

Coca-Cola Confirms F1 Sponsorship Interest
Coca-Cola is "evaluating" a sponsorship of F1 but "suggests that it is not likely to involve its flagship brand," according to PIT PASS. Coca-Cola Head of Global Sports and Entertainment Marketing Emmanuel Seuge "had been researching F1, as well as the drink's sponsorships in the past." Coca-Cola Global Partnerships and Experiential Marketing VP Scott McCune said, "Both I, personally, and the company have great respect for [F1 CEO] Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One and what they have done." He added: "They have built a phenomenal platform, and you can see its popularity. We look at that and see if there is a brand fit for us. PIT PASS

Ecclestone Says F1 Will Race In Germany In '13
The current operator NAG, which has leased the facilities from the owner, is in talks with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone to "secure the race and keep him from awarding the July event to Hockenheim, which alternates each year with its rival." Nürburgring GmbH Managing Dir Thomas Schmidt said, "If the issue over whether there will be a Formula One race at Nürburgring in 2013 is sorted out by year-end, that would still be early enough." The Nürburgring GmbH "ran into financial trouble amid a dispute with operator NAG over leasing fees." Schmidt, who runs the company with an insolvency administrator, said he had met with Ecclestone in London, "but only to get to know one another." NAG, owned by hotelier Joerg Lindner and real estate investor Kai Richter, "for now remains at the negotiation table" with Ecclestone. REUTERS.

The DPA reported F1 "will race in Germany next year despite the crisis at the Nürburgring." Ecclestone said, "We do not want and will not lose the race in Germany, for sure." The first option as a host venue is still the Nürburgring. DPA

FIA Limits Use Of F1's DRS On Fridays, Saturdays During '13 Season
Motorsport governing body FIA revealed that it "will limit the use of F1's drag reduction system in free practices and qualifying in '13," according to Robert Seiwert of MOTORSPORT MAGAZIN. F1 teams "will only be allowed to use the DRS in the same spots as they are allowed to in the race." So far, drivers "have been allowed to use the DRS whenever they want on Friday and Saturday to get as much speed as possible out of their cars." The reason for FIA's decision to limit the DRS use in '13 is "safety concerns." FIA F1 Race Dir Charlie Whiting said, "We prohibit the use of DRS during the practices and qualifying except in those areas where it is also allowed in the race." MOTORSPORT MAGAZIN

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