Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Alonso says it's hard to beat an Adrian Newey designed car
    Pirelli predicts 1-stop race

    F1 considers 'demerit' system for driver offenses

  • Webber not keen on new podium procedures
  • 'Nothing new' as Newey keeps dominating – Alonso
  • Ferrari were 'really interested' for 2014 – Perez
  • F1's US return clashes with Nascar finale
  • Kobayashi more optimistic about F1 future
  • Hamilton puts racy initials on US GP helmet
  • Lotus owner says Genii 'wants' to stay in F1
  • F1 career in a 'bad gap' – Kovalainen
  • Dire mood as HRT staff plead 'we are unemployed'
  • McLaren duo 'shocked' by lack of grip
  • Perez reprimanded for blocking Glock
  • Pirelli predicts one-stop race at Austin
  • Williams hopes to recover from Friday problem
  • F1 drivers fight with new track on first day of practice
  • F1’s first day, few glitches, rave reviews

F1 considers 'demerit' system for driver offenses
(GMM) Formula one is considering a demerit-point scheme to penalize both on and off-track driver offenses from 2013, it has emerged.

Journalists were reportedly briefed about the potential scheme in Austin on Thursday.

"I think at the moment you're meant to receive three reprimands and then you get something so I think it's just presumably a further elaboration on that point," said McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh.

It is believed drivers could lose super license 'points' not only for on-track infractions, but also offenses such as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen's podium swearing recently in Abu Dhabi.

"Providing it's administered in a correct, consistent manner then why should we have any problem with it?" Whitmarsh added.

"It's the same for all drivers and the same for all teams."

Webber not keen on new podium procedures
(GMM) Mark Webber has admitted he is no fan of the new podium procedures in 2012.

This year, the top three drivers stand on an elaborate new podium featuring electronic flags and are then interviewed live by a former driver, like Niki Lauda or David Coulthard.

But in Abu Dhabi recently, Coulthard had to apologize to the fans beneath the podium when both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel swore.

"I am 50-50 on that," Webber, Vettel's Red Bull teammate, said when asked about the podium interviews.

"It's difficult to control your emotions because you're full of adrenaline, you're excited."

The Australian admitted he was "pissed off" after winning at Silverstone earlier this year when he had to share the podium with "a thousand dignitaries".

"Apart from that you also need real flags. The electronic flags look rubbish," said Webber.

'Nothing new' as Newey keeps dominating – Alonso
(GMM) After Sebastian Vettel utterly dominated Friday's proceedings in Austin, his title rival Fernando Alonso repeated his claim that the real hero is Adrian Newey.

"It's not a surprise," Ferrari's Spaniard said after the practice sessions at the brand new Circuit of the Americas.

"You," he told reporters, "were surprised when I said we are fighting against Adrian Newey. But now there is nothing new: two Red Bulls ahead in every session. It will be the same in qualifying.

"But because we are the better team, we can get more points on Sunday, just as we did at the last race," he is quoted by Italy's Autosprint, before posting a photo on Facebook of himself and teammate Felipe Massa posing with a huge gun.

"Ready for last two races!" the caption reads.

Ferrari were 'really interested' for 2014 – Perez
(GMM) Sergio Perez has admitted there was a chance he would have landed at Ferrari in 2014.

Instead, the Mexican – who was the cream of Ferrari's driver development academy – has been poached by the fabled Italian squad's historic rival McLaren.

"I wanted to be at Ferrari in 2014," Perez, who will move to the British team from Sauber at the end of the year, told El Mundo newspaper.

He said the signs he had a future at Ferrari were good, particularly after a meeting at Monza with Stefano Domenicali.

"They were really interested in me, but now not," the 22-year-old smiled.

Recalling the day he signed with McLaren, Perez admitted: "I jumped on my bed and drank tequila with my friends."

His new boss Martin Whitmarsh, however, warned the new McLaren driver not to be too excited.

"He will turn up in Australia next year with so much more pressure on his shoulders," he said. "There is an added pressure to being a McLaren driver.

"He might think he understands it, but he doesn't."

F1's US return clashes with NASCAR finale
(GMM) After a five-year absence from the US, F1 is trying to make an impact this weekend in the crucial American market.

The impressive new Circuit of the Americas has been hailed by Bernie Ecclestone and the teams, while the layout is lauded by drivers.

But one questionable detail is the scheduling clash with the season finale of the highly popular Nascar series, with many US motor racing fans glued to wall-to-wall television coverage this weekend.

David Coulthard, the former McLaren and Red Bull veteran, called it "an unfortunate scheduling clash".

"But in this land of opportunity I am hopeful that formula one will grab its big chance and leave our hosts wanting more," he wrote in his Telegraph column.

But the scheduling clash could recur yet again next year, with the Sprint Cup finale and the US grand prix also reportedly sharing dates for 2013.

"I think it appears to be a bit unfortunate but we're probably a different market and I guess it's difficult when you're arranging calendars," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

Kobayashi more optimistic about F1 future
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi is sounding more optimistic about his chances of staying in formula one in 2013.

Earlier in Austin, Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn played down reports the Japanese needs to find a sponsor in order to keep his race seat.

And now Kobayashi is quoted by Brazil's Globo: "I am confident.

"Although there is no agreement yet, things are moving in the right direction. I think the situation is better than before.

"Regarding the money and all that is necessary, I think everything will be fine. But we'll see," said Kobayashi, who was strongly tipped to be replaced by the Telmex-backed Mexican Esteban Gutierrez.

Hamilton puts racy initials on US GP helmet
(GMM) Hot on the heels of the FIA's warning about foul language, Lewis Hamilton has featured an obscene acronym on his helmet for the US grand prix.

Bild newspaper said the prominent decal on the back of the departing McLaren driver's helmet in Austin is "H.A.M."

"The initials do not stand for his last name, but for 'Hard as a motherf***er'," the German newspaper claims.

Hamilton's 2013 boss Norbert Haug grinned: "Lewis is just saying 'Hard as Mercedes!'"

Lotus owner says Genii 'wants' to stay in F1
(GMM) Gerard Lopez, the owner of the newly-winning F1 team Lotus, said he cannot guarantee Genii will remain committed to the sport.

In an interview with Germany's Welt newspaper, the Luxembourger laid out many of F1's problems, including the scarcity of sponsors.

And amid rumors the Enstone based team has been in talks with potential investors, Lopez was asked if the investment company is staying in F1 despite the problems.

"We certainly want to," he answered.

"Our involvement in formula one is only possible if the numbers add up. At the moment they do.

"But if that is no longer the case, then we would have to think like business people and ask ourselves the question: 'is this still interesting for us, or not?'"

F1 career in a 'bad gap' – Kovalainen
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has admitted he finds his career in a "bad gap".

The Finn began the season as Caterham's highly-respected number 1 driver.

"The papers (for 2013) were almost ready for the signatures," he told the MTV3 broadcaster.

But Caterham has since fallen behind Marussia in the lucrative constructors' championship, which could cost the Tony Fernandes-owned team millions in Concorde Agreement prize money.

"The situation has changed," Kovalainen acknowledged. "Then, when it (the 2013 deal) didn't happen, some of the other teams with whom we had spoken were already locked out.

"It has left me in a bad gap at the moment," he said.

Caterham is therefore considering pairing a couple of 'pay-drivers' next year, and Kovalainen said he is in no mind to start chasing potential sponsors.

"In the situation I'm in, I can't do any more. It's now up to the team to decide what they want to do," he said.

Dire mood as HRT staff plead 'we are unemployed'
(GMM) The mood at HRT this weekend is dire, with the ailing Spanish team's staff making it known "we are unemployed and available", according to the sports daily Marca.

At the beginning of the week, owner Thesan Capital said it is seeking a buyer for the backmarker.

Spanish media reports said if that doesn't happen by the day after the 2012 finale in Brazil, all staff will be retrenched.

32 have already been let go.

An unnamed HRT engineer said: "Curiously, two of them, a simulation engineer from McLaren GT and one from Marussia, were only in the office five days.

"We were working on next year's car, trying to improve. It has caught us all by surprise."

Another, a mechanic, said the HRT offices are now "empty".

"We have been told that our last day could be November 26. If we are here (in Austin), it is because they (Thesan) have contracts with the FIA and FOM, forcing them to compete."

Another unnamed HRT team member said the team came close to being sold to a Qatari group, but the deal broke down at the last minute.

That has triggered the current situation.

"I think the grid next year will have only 22 cars," someone with knowledge of the situation is quoted as saying.

The source added: "It is true that someone could come and take the team for a reduced price, but time is the factor.

"The 2013 car design has been stopped and that's the most important thing, putting two cars on the grid.

"The license is what counts, but first you need a car."

An HRT team member said: "We are not closing due to a lack of liquidity, but simply because Thesan has decided it is no longer profitable.

"They have already lost interest in F1."

McLaren duo 'shocked' by lack of grip
McLaren says its drivers have been surprised by the 'shocking' lack of grip during early running at the new Austin Formula 1 track.

Early practice was marred by a whole host of drivers locking up and running wide around the United States Grand Prix venue as the track surface proved very slippery.

McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe said it was too early to judge whether the lack of grip was down to a dirty track surface, or the actual asphalt characteristic.

"Going out initially, there is quite a shocking lack of grip," he said when asked about driver feedback from first practice.

"What remains to be seen is to what extent that is just dirt and to what extent it is the surface of the circuit.

"Obviously the circuit improves a lot during the session and there was a time when I wondered whether we would really get going, but everybody went for it."

He added: "Jenson [Button] was describing the experience as still very, very unusual. He says he is trying to almost rally the car around with so little grip, because you have to promote oversteer to get the car to turn. So, hopefully the track settles down."

Lowe said that the data provided to teams ahead of the weekend by Pirelli did not indicate that the surface would be particularly smooth.

"Pirelli do measurements that they supply to us and they would indicate that it is fairly similar to the roughness numbers to other new circuits," he said. "But it does seem to be at the moment behaving differently."

The tricky track surface has left Lowe in no doubt that the early times being delivered are not indicative of competitiveness for the Austin weekend.

"I think it is really difficult to read anything into what happened this morning, because the circuit was changing so much so quickly – and drivers were learning it at same time. The tires went through quite an unrealistic cycle." Yahoo Eurosport

Perez reprimanded for blocking Glock
Sergio Perez has been handed a reprimand for having blocked Timo Glock during opening practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Mexican was deemed by the race stewards to have 'made several weaving maneuvers' in front of Glock on the entry to Turn 20 towards the end of FP1.

After being summoned to see the stewards following the end of the first session, and having admitted that he made a mistake, Perez was given a reprimand.

It is the second reprimand of the season that Perez has got, having been punished in Abu Dhabi for impeding Bruno Senna during qualifying.

If drivers get three reprimands in a season, of which at least two are for driving infringements, then the driver will be handed a 10-place grid penalty.

Pirelli predicts one-stop race at Austin
Pirelli says the United States Grand Prix is going to be another straightforward one-stop race thanks to the zero degradation experienced by drivers.

The smooth track surface, allied to the choice of medium and hard compounds for this weekend, has left Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery in no doubt that there will be little strategy variation on Sunday.

"There is absolutely no degradation. Nothing," he said when asked by AUTOSPORT for his predictions for the race.

"There is a risk of overheating tires if the drivers get into wheel spin, but that is something that they have been managing through the season and have got better at.

"There will be shoulder wear like recent tracks, but the rest of the tire can probably last the whole weekend."

Hembery believes there would be some track evolution throughout the weekend, which could change matters, as could warmer temperatures – but everything was set for a one-stop race.

"The lower temperatures here and the harder tires are all factors," he said. "It will be more interesting when we have had some more support events going on.

"The temperatures are lower than anticipated. We thought they [track temperature] would be up in the 40s based on forecast we had seen, so from that point of view it has been a big factor as well. But it's looking like a one-stop."

Williams hopes to recover from Friday problem
Williams demonstrated strong speed in Austin on Friday, with Bruno Senna doing enough to finish eighth quickest. The former Champion team is now looking to solve a query with Pastor Maldonado’s car, which ended the opening day in 12th position.

“The drivers and engineers are extremely impressed with the new track layout," Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer, said ahead of Saturday’s final practice and qualifying. “Track evolution in FP1 was high, with the initial grip levels being extremely low. We made a number of setup changes to both cars to account for the track conditions.

“Bruno's FP2 running on lower and higher fuel levels was strong. Pastor was less happy with the balance in the car and we have a lot of work to do to further optimize the car setup. On Pastor's last run we had to stop the car with an engine air leak."

In Abu Dhabi just under two weeks ago, Williams achieved its first double points-scoring finish – with fifth and eighth positions – since the Chinese Grand Prix in mid-April.

F1 drivers fight with new track on first day of practice
At 9 a.m. Friday, Formula One cars began screaming their way around Circuit of the Americas for their first practice laps.

“That’s the sound we wanted to hear!" a British fan yelled with excitement. “Now you’ve got yourself a race track!"

By circuit count, 65,360 fans turned out to see the first rounds of racing and, overall, they seemed to be pleased with the new 3.4-mile track, which was designed to have some great sight lines.

Drivers were generally positive after two practice rounds, but were reserving judgment until after the United States Grand Prix on Sunday. The drivers were particularly reserved about Turn 1, which comes at the top of a hill after a straight stretch.

After posting the second-fastest time of day, Red Bull’s Mark Webber said, “Overall, it’s good for time trialing and on your own it’s quite good, a very rewarding circuit, but we need to see what it’s like for racing."

A cloudless, crisp Friday was almost perfect for fans who strolled around the grounds, but the cool temperatures and the newness of the track posed a challenge for drivers who were trying to ready their cars for today’s crucial qualifying runs.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the German who is number one in the driver standings, created a buzz in the morning practice session by posting a time of 1 minute 38.125 seconds, more than two seconds ahead of the only man who has a chance of denying him a drivers’ championship this year, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.

In the afternoon, Vettel, who is seeking his third consecutive driving title, improved to 1.37.718 with Webber clocking 1:38.475 and Alonso 1:38.483.

“It’s a fun track," Vettel said. “This morning was pretty difficult to start, kind of like driving on ice. It wasn’t easy, but we got into a rhythm pretty quickly.’’

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had the fourth fastest time of the afternoon and concluded, “I think we’ll be strong tomorrow. It’s going to be tough to beat the Red Bulls, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible."

Hamilton added, “It’s a great track, and it’s so good to see such a huge turnout today. I never expected to see so many people."

Chuck Voelter was one of the early arriving fans. He said he biked to an appropriate stop and caught a shuttle from there.

“I wanted to keep my carbon footprint down," said Voelter, a local artist who was painting his Fletcher’s corny dog with a streak of mustard Friday morning.

Voelter said he was making up for missing the state fair in Dallas this year. With the turkey legs and gigantic sausages being cooked over open fires in the grand plaza area, the track’s opening did have the feel and tempting aroma of a state fair midway.

A pair of Britishers now living in Orlando, Lee Davison and Tony Woodley, gave the new track rave reviews.

“It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s really good," Davison said. They saw the track from the top of the 250 foot high tower just as the morning practice session began and then drifted over to Turn 19, the penultimate turn on the track.

Turn 19 turned out to be the action spot of the day with several cars spinning out.

“It’s a very odd balance that you get," said seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. “You understeer on the way in and suddenly it snaps, and it goes to oversteer. And, kind of, everybody seems to struggle with either this or just pure understeer that is easy to overdo, and going a little offline means no grip and just going wide."

Schumacher also had some thoughts about Turn 1, the track’s most visually spectacular feature.

“As usual the one that looks, probably, as outstanding from outside is not the one that is outstanding from inside," Schumacher said. “It is much more the later part from 3 up to Turn 9, that is the big excitement of this track, and then the back part, 17, 18, 19. Those kind of corners are much more a challenge for us."

McLaren’s Jenson Button also was not a fan of Turn 1, but teammate Hamilton said, “It’s pretty cool when you approach it and see and how steep it is. Hopefully, it will allow us to do some overtaking because it’s quite wide on the entry."

After a morning practice today the cars will qualify in the afternoon. Qualifying for the top spots on the grid is very important in Formula One because overtaking, as passing is called in the sport, is at a premium. Those designing and building Austin’s track hoped there would be more spots for overtaking than at other tracks, perhaps two or even three besides Turn 1.

“I hope we don’t have to do any overtaking," Hamilton said. “That’s always the goal." The Statesman

F1’s first day, few glitches, rave reviews
Formula One passed its trial run in Austin Friday.

More than 65,000 fans poured into the new, gleaming Circuit of the Americas on Friday, arriving more or less seamlessly by bus, car, bicycle and helicopter. Mid-morning and late afternoon saw shuttle bus lines half an hour long, but few complaints.

On a breezy, sun-drenched, postcard-perfect day, Austin’s international auto-racing debut drew rave reviews from fans and drivers alike.

“We were delighted with the turnout today," circuit spokeswoman Julie Loignon said. “There’s been an awful lot of curiosity and excitement building, and it seems to be reaching a fever pitch at this point."

Friday’s attendance exceeded expectations of 40,000 to 50,000 fans. Officials expect perhaps 85,000 fans Saturday for qualifying races and more than 100,000 fans Sunday for the U.S. Grand Prix.

The slow-moving traffic leaving the circuit Friday provided a glimpse, however, of the circuit’s biggest challenge. As the numbers of fans swell, the recent improvements to area roads will be put to the test.

The success of the race weekend hinges in part on whether the crush of people leaving the track this weekend don’t overwhelm what are still country byways surrounding the track. Organizers hope to entice some fans to linger after the racing with bands performing at the track.

The number of shuttle buses will double Saturday and Sunday, with 450 to 500 expected to be pressed into service, running from two primary lots: Trinity Street downtown and the Travis County Exposition Center. All 17,000 parking spaces at track-side parking lots, available to those with premium tickets, are expected to be filled this weekend.

Best advice to those fans planning to fly out of Austin immediately following the race Sunday: reconsider.

“It was a bit more than I’d hoped for," Bob Francis, from St. Louis, said about the wait for a shuttle bus outside the track. “We were just talking about maybe changing flight plans. It’ll be a mess Sunday."

Those wishing to shorten the trip to the track, in a largely rural area southeast of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, are taking helicopters. There were an estimated 300 helicopter landings and takeoffs at the circuit Friday, slightly higher than expected, said Rene Banglesdorf, owner of Charlie Bravo Aviation, the company handling helicopter traffic at the circuit.

About 350 people rode bikes to Richard Moya Park and then caught shuttle buses to the circuit for Friday’s practice runs, city officials said. The city and track officials, in an effort to offer at least one alternative mode to the circuit, designed a bike route from downtown to the park south of the airport.

Authorities say they issued citations, with maximum fines of up to $500, to an unknown number of people who attempted to walk to the circuit. Walking is prohibited for safety reasons, as the roads leading to the track don’t have sidewalks. Those pedestrians, mostly on Kellam Road, were sent back to their vehicles.

Fans encountered a few glitches Friday, which officials say they’ll work to iron out. Some vendors ran out of food, a testament to the larger-than-expected crowd, and credit card machines stopped working at one point, leaving fans to wait in long ATM lines for cash. And many fans complained that cell phone reception was spotty, despite cellular companies setting up mobile cell towers to increase capacity.

Officials slightly altered the highly orchestrated transportation plan, deciding to open the Expo Center parking lots at 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Cars stacked up on Decker Lane for half an hour Friday morning, with eager fans waiting to enter the lots which didn’t open until 6:45 a.m. The first shuttle buses leave there and downtown at 7 a.m.

But any hiccups seemed overshadowed by giddiness at Formula One’s return to U.S. soil.

“This might be better than a Texas-OU game," said Bill Burchette of Oklahoma City.

“The track experience was fabulous, state of the art," said John Befumo, a pharmaceutical representative from Charleston, S.C., as he stepped off a shuttle bus downtown. “A great day. Just a great day."

Befumo and his friend Rocco Quintana, a stock broker, were both wearing the bright red of the Ferrari team.

Pablo Torres, a Mexico City lawyer who said he’s has been to Formula One races around the world, including Italy and China, summed up the day: “Lots of people, very well organized."

“We better be there early Sunday to get a better place at Turn 1," Torres said, referring to a sharp left turn at the highest point on the track. “They have already baptized it as Austin’s classic turn."

For Bobby Epstein, one of the circuit’s founders and lead investors, Friday was a dream come true. Few people have more riding on the success of Circuit of the Americas than Epstein.

But getting to the race was almost too trouble-free, he said.

“For a minute, I thought that might mean that nobody was coming today," he said, tapping his heart to indicate a nervous flutter or two. The Statesman

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