F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • De Villota to make first appearance since injury
  • Older Schumacher took fewer risks – Lauda
  • Stewart renews offer to coach struggling Grosjean
  • Reporter senses conspiracy after Alonso exit
  • Maldonado admits 'chance' of Williams switch
  • Button working to build McLaren team around him
  • Massa 'can be even faster' than Alonso – Vettel

De Villota to make first appearance since injury
(GMM) Maria de Villota will on Thursday make her first public appearance since losing an eye in a formula one test crash in early July.

Spain's Europa Press news agency said the 32-year-old former Marussia test driver will update the world about her recovery from the serious accident during a press conference in Madrid to also be attended by Spanish motor racing federation chief Carlos Gracia.

Older Schumacher took fewer risks – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda thinks Michael Schumacher had become too old to succeed at the highest level in formula one.

When the seven time world champion made his announcement at Suzuka, he insisted he is "still able to compete with the best drivers of the world".

"This is something that makes me proud, and this is part of why I never
regretted my comeback," said the great German.

But three-time title winner Lauda, who has joined Mercedes as its new non-executive chairman and was instrumental in Lewis Hamilton's 2013 signing, is not so sure.

"The older you get," the Playboy magazine quoted him as saying in German, "the more you think as a driver, acting as an automatic brake inside you, taking away some of the risk."

Lauda said that, in contrast, younger drivers are in a different stage of their lives, with less experience and responsibility.

He said he doubts Schumacher was capable of adding an eighth title to his tally.

Stewart renews offer to coach struggling Grosjean
(GMM) Sir Jackie Stewart has once again offered to become struggling Romain Grosjean's coach.

Earlier this year, when Lotus' French driver was first labeled a 'crash king' of the 2012 season, triple world champion Stewart offered to help the 26-year-old get to grips with the sport's psychological pressures.

"I used to work with a coach and I don't feel that I need one today," Grosjean said in July.

But three months later, immediately after serving a one-race ban for causing the Spa start-line crash and a string of other incidents, Grosjean arrived in Singapore with Benoit Campargue, a Frenchman who also coaches Judo champion Teddy Riner.

Even so, Grosjean is once again in the wrong spotlight, having been branded a "nutcase" by Mark Webber after yet another first-lap crash in Japan.

"I would love to help Romain, because I think he has enormous potential,"
said Stewart, who already works with Lotus through the team's owner Genii.

He told the BBC: "Any more accidents could jeopardize his chances of driving for Lotus next season, let alone the very best teams.

"When the time comes and he wants to do it, I will always be there for him because of my relationship with the team," added Stewart.

Indeed, the situation is becoming dire for Grosjean, as figures up and down the paddock call on the FIA to impose more race bans on the 'dangerous' driver.

Asked if the situation has endangered Grosjean's career, boss Eric Boullier is quoted by the Daily Mail: "Not yet, but I expect to see an improvement."

Reporter senses conspiracy after Alonso exit
(GMM) A Spanish newspaper reporter has concocted a conspiracy theory in the days since Fernando Alonso's first-lap retirement at Suzuka last weekend.

Diario AS Correspondent Manuel Franco reminds his readers that, at Spa, it was Lotus' Romain Grosjean who triggered the chaos that ended former runaway championship leader Alonso's race.

Then in Japan, it was the sister Lotus, driven by Kimi Raikkonen, who made contact with the Ferrari.

"There are suspicious ones in the paddock," Franco insisted.

Perhaps he is referring to the fact that it was Alonso who pushed Raikkonen out of Ferrari – and, indeed, F1 – at the end of 2009.

Or maybe there is an Enstone factor at play, like when Renault's Vitaly Petrov blocked Alonso in Abu Dhabi, ultimately costing the Spaniard the 2010 title.

Renault, remember, is now Lotus, and they both shared an engine supplier with Ferrari's main championship rival, Red Bull.

"This is F1," Franco, defending the possible conspiracy, concluded.

Referring to the Raikkonen contact at Suzuka, however, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali does not smell a rat.

"It was a normal racing accident, as I am sure that Kimi meant no harm," the Italian is quoted as saying by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Maldonado admits 'chance' of Williams switch
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado has admitted there is "a chance" he will switch teams ahead of the 2013 season.

Days ago, before Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was re-elected by his countrymen, the lucratively PDVSA-backed Maldonado answered "we'll see" when asked if he will still be a Williams driver next season.

The Spanish GP winner said he could not comment because the great British team always waits until the end of the year to announce its lineup for the following season.

But now, with Chavez soundly in office until at least 2018, Maldonado has been quoted as admitting a change to another team is possible.

"At the moment there is a chance to go to other teams but we are considering remaining here (Williams), but it is still too early," the 27-year-old is quoted by Sky Sports.

"It is difficult to say, until other teams have confirmed their drivers you never know," he added.

The 2013 lineups at top teams Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes have all been confirmed, but theoretical vacancies at Ferrari, Lotus, Sauber and Force India still exist.

Button working to build McLaren team around him
(GMM) Jenson Button has admitted he is working to build a team around him at McLaren.

Even as reigning champion, when the Briton arrived at McLaren in 2010, paddock figures likened the move to entering Lewis Hamilton's "lion's den".

Less than three seasons in, Hamilton's long McLaren relationship is set to terminate, with Button now insisting that he – and not Hamilton's successor Sergio Perez – is the driver to bet on for 2013 spoils.

Speaking to the Brazilian sports daily Lance!, Button said: "There are a lot of smart people in formula one, which maybe is not so apparent from the outside.

"But it is a very competitive environment, and Fernando (Alonso) is one of those people.

"He's been smart to build the (Ferrari) team around him, which is something we all strive for. I did it in my previous team (Honda/Brawn) and it's happening here (McLaren) too," said the 32-year-old.

Asked if he has taken another important step forwards with the impending departure of McLaren protege Hamilton, Button answered: "No comment."

But he did admit: "It's one less person in front of me.

"This year, I've had good race pace, but on Saturdays I've been usually second place at best.

"Next year I can be first. Race pace is my strength and I think there's nobody better in that way. Qualifying is harder for me.

"If I have a car that works for me, I can put it on pole, but if the car is a bit more difficult then I end up behind Lewis."

Meanwhile, whilst envying Alonso's position at Ferrari, Button – who has in the past been linked with the great Italian team – said it would be hard to arrive at Maranello to be the Spaniard's teammate.

"The impression I have is that you would get there and be very well received, but then Fernando would come in and start talking in Italian to the engineers," said the Briton.

Massa 'can be even faster' than Alonso – Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has stated he does not "understand" why Felipe Massa has struggled so much alongside Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.

The 2012 championship looks set to be a head-to-head contest between Red Bull's Vettel and Ferrari number 1 Alonso.

But with Ferrari still yet to sign up Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa for 2013, German Vettel has revealed some of his feelings about the situation inside the great Italian team.

When asked by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper about Brazilian Massa's lean years between 2010 and 2012, the reigning back to back world champion answered: "I don't understand.

"I really like Felipe as a person and respect him a lot as a driver.

"Many people forget how much he has won and that he lost a title by one point to Lewis (Hamilton).

"Had he been champion, people would talk very differently about him.

"I don't understand why he has suffered so much in recent years," added Vettel.

Massa, of course, has come back from his near-fatal Budapest qualifying crash of 2009, insisting that – physiologically at least – he is just the same as when he went head-to-head for the title against Hamilton.

But also in 2008, Massa was the standout Ferrari driver alongside the then reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

And two years earlier, Massa was regarded as more than a match for his then teammate Michael Schumacher, who was ending his ultra-successful first career on a high.

Vettel said: "With all due respect to Fernando, I think Felipe can be as fast or sometimes even faster than him. But then I don't always understand why the difference between them is so great.

"In the past Felipe has competed with very good drivers like Michael and Kimi and has always been fast, so I don't understand. But I'm not a Ferrari driver and so I don't know how things are there.

"It's just a shame that people forget things so quickly. In 2008 he (Massa) was seen as one of the best and now he's not.

"If his engine had not blown up in Hungary he would be a champion. I know I keep saying 'if', but that's the way it is," Vettel is quoted as saying.

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