Latest F1 news in brief – Sunday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.


  • McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh

    Contract chaos giving Hamilton title focus – boss

  • Webber warns Grosjean to run after Singapore shunt
  • Fernandes upbeat about future with Caterham drivers
  • Sauber upgrades "not working"
  • Toro Rosso needs gluing together, says Key
  • Senna gets Singapore grid penalty
  • F1 considers 2013 'shark fin' for driver identification New
  • Pirelli wants to choose from more compounds New
  • Stewards summon Vettel for Button near-miss New

Contract chaos giving Hamilton title focus – boss
(GMM) On a roll and charging to close the gap on Fernando Alonso, Singapore pole sitter Lewis Hamilton insists he is not worried about losing the support of the McLaren team.

Depending on who you ask in the F1 paddock, the 2008 world champion is on the verge of jumping ship to Mercedes.

Whether that's true or not, Briton Hamilton has most certainly been dithering over a new McLaren contract, with boss Martin Whitmarsh finally admitting this weekend that the dispute is centrally about money.

"I don't think you could say that drivers are the most loyal people in the world, that's for sure," he is quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"They are extremely individualistic. Each of them wants to be the best, make the most money and enjoy the greatest privileges."

That may be true, but Hamilton – although on blistering form that on Saturday was described by Alonso as being from "another planet" – does not at first glance seem to be enjoying life at McLaren.

"No, I'm pretty happy," the 27-year-old insisted after dominating qualifying on Saturday.

Is he worried his contract dithering and his dark mood could alienate the team, just when his 2012 title challenge is really heating up.

"Yes, 100 … no, 1,000 per cent confident. I have 1,000 per cent confidence in my team," Hamilton insisted.

Whitmarsh's brave face also continued on Saturday, the Woking based team's chief putting the argument that the 'Hamilton saga' may actually be helping the driver.

"He's creating barriers around him -– he realizes the championship is achievable," Whitmarsh said.

"He is in a really good place and it is quite possible all the chat has caused him to put the barriers up and focus on driving."

Webber warns Grosjean to run after Singapore shunt
(GMM) All eyes will be on Romain Grosjean as the beleaguered Frenchman kick-starts his formula one season on Sunday.

After a string of incidents in 2012, the Lotus driver was finally banned for a race at Monza recently for causing the first corner chaos at Spa.

He has qualified a solid eighth for his comeback race in Singapore, well ahead of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and alongside Red Bull's Mark Webber on the grid.

Grosjean told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport he is "not particularly nervous" about the start of the race.

Australian Webber, however, is.

"Yeah, he's okay. He knows I've a good right hook on me so he will stay away from me," he joked. "He better put his sneakers on if he hits me."

Eyes on Sunday will also be on 2012's other 'bad boy' Pastor Maldonado, who amid an up-and-down season qualified superbly on the front row in Singapore.

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton, desperate to shrink the gap between himself and points leader Fernando Alonso, might be forgiven for wanting a more predictable racer with which to share Sunday's dash to the first corner.

"I am happy for Pastor. He's taken a lot of heat throughout the year," said the Briton.

"Of course I want to do well tomorrow. As long as I have a good start I think I am in a good position," Hamilton added.

Fernandes upbeat about future with Caterham drivers
(GMM) Caterham issued a press release on Saturday.

That might not sound like ground-breaking news, but the team had actually stopped keeping the world's media up-to-date about its progress on track at recent races.

Boss Tony Fernandes confirmed: "Truthfully, we did not believe our performance was giving us anything worth reporting."

But in Singapore, the Malaysian entrepreneur finally gave the team's PR department some work to do, after Russian Vitaly Petrov qualified 19th.

Fernandes said it gave him hope "we are back on the path to the promised land of the midfield".

It will also give Petrov something to smile about, amid speculation his Russian sponsors have grown tired of formula one.

"I think Vitaly's performance (in Singapore) might just be the making of him as a Caterham driver," said Fernandes.

On the other side of the garage, Heikki Kovalainen has had more of a struggle under the floodlights.

Fernandes thinks all the speculation about the Finn's future – including rumored links to Sauber or even Ferrari, and a row between his manager and Fernandes – may have got to him.

"It is quite possible that what has been going on over the last couple of days has not helped him on track but I am pleased to say that discussions are going very well and we are aiming to make positive statements about that in the next few weeks," he said.

Sauber upgrades "not working"
Sauber admitted that its lack of performance during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend was due to its latest upgrade package failing to pay off, following a poor qualifying performance.

Two weeks after Sergio Perez's near-victory in the Italian Grand Prix, Sauber has been off the pace throughout the Marina Bay weekend. Perez will start 14th, while his team-mate Kamui Kobayashi – who had expected a good weekend – could not make it beyond Q1 and starts 18th.

"We have obviously had a difficult weekend here in Singapore," said Perez. "The main issue is that for some reason we didn't get our new package to work. This comes as a surprise because so far all the development steps have paid off. There is a lot of downforce missing.

"My last lap in Q2 was clear and I think I got the most out of it. We have tried a lot to improve the car's setup and everything else, but it didn't work out."

Kobayashi added that he had "no confidence" in the car.

"We have tried everything but could not get rid of the huge oversteer," he said. "I have no confidence in the car and this is really the last thing you want to have to cope with on a street circuit. The problem I have here reminds me somehow of the one I had at the Hungaroring, where I also struggled with the car. Given how the car is, I don't see how I can recover in the race from where I am starting, but I will not give up, this is certain."

Head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara said Sauber now understood why it had gone backward, but that it could not be rectified on-site.

"The qualifying told the truth of where we stand," he said. "On the positive side we were able to identify where the problem comes from. Nevertheless we cannot solve it here."

Toro Rosso needs gluing together, says Key
Gluing together’ is required to move Toro Rosso back towards the top in Formula 1. That is according to new Technical Director James Key, who replaces Giorgio Ascanelli and had been at Sauber until leaving shortly before the start of the 2012 season.

“It’s early days obviously, but I think one of the big strengths I noticed very quickly in the team is the enthusiasm everyone has and the ambition to make it succeed," Key said in Singapore. “Everyone is desperate for it to work – there’s a real passion there, as you can imagine, being Italian in the team’s origin. Primarily it’s a very good atmosphere to work in, something a little bit familiar to me in a way.

“It needs a little bit more gluing together, in a way. There’s still separate departments doing a very good job but it needs to come together – and everyone recognizes that. It’s just a case of going through that process. So, the strength, I think, is the will and the ambition of everyone.

"On the weakness side, I think it’s just still a team that’s growing. There’s no lack of effort from everyone, it just needs to be given direction. There’s certainly some work to do on the aero side, which is very clear and mechanical."

Asked what he can do to improve this year’s car, Key replied:

“I’d say there’s probably 40 percent of the car still to go, so certainly we can work on that, but I have to say a lot of very sensible decisions have already been made for next year’s car – exactly what I would have done, which is good. So, we’re all aligned in our direction and we’ll do everything we can in between now and Melbourne."

Senna gets Singapore grid penalty
Senna crashed in Q2 at the Marina Bay circuit. The impact with the wall damaged the gearbox enough for it to need to be replaced.

Williams changed it on Saturday night and the FIA confirmed that the replacement is a breach of the technical regulations that requires gearboxes to last five races.

Senna will now start 22nd, having originally qualified 17th.

F1 considers 2013 'shark fin' for driver identification
(GMM) F1 cars could be fitted with a mandatory engine cover 'shark fin' next year.

The move would be designed to help television viewers and trackside spectators easier identify the drivers, in the era of deep cockpits and ever-changing helmet designs.

Mercedes tested the 'shark fin' solution at the recent Magny Cours test.

On the German squad's test car, the shark fin featured the drivers' race number, his national flag and his three-letter F1 initial.

"The teams have been working for some time on how to improve the identification of the drivers on the track," team boss Ross Brawn told Auto Motor und Sport.

"It seems to be a trend nowadays that drivers are constantly changing their helmet designs, which makes it very difficult to know who's sitting in the cars.

"At the moment, the requirement for the size of the race number on the car is very small. The solution with the fin at Magny Cours was an experiment.

"Now we need to discuss with the FIA if there are better alternatives," added Brawn.

He suggested the shark fin is not the ideal solution.

"You have to be balanced," said Brawn. "If you have something that is so dominant, is the audience being distracted from the logos of our partners and sponsors?"

Brawn also revealed that Mercedes will test its so-nicknamed 'triple DRS' concept in free practice in Japan in two weeks.

"We could use it in practice and at the moment I think it's very unlikely that we will see it in the race just yet," he said.

Pirelli wants to choose from more compounds
(GMM) Pirelli would like to be able to choose from more than just four different compounds of tires as it makes its selections for grands prix.

Currently, the sport's sole tire supplier selects two compounds per race from a pool of just four choices — hard, medium, soft and super-soft.

But more compounds for Pirelli to choose from would make the racing even more exciting, Paul Hembery told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"The teams eventually learn and adjust their strategies accordingly, which is not in our hands," said the Pirelli motor sport director.

"We would of course like seven or eight different compounds. With four, the teams will always eventually figure out what they need to do.

"At the moment there are 20 races and four different tires."

So why can't Pirelli simply make more compounds?

"That's just the rules," answered Hembery. "And we all know how long it takes to make a change."

Auto Motor und Sport said the earliest the change could occur is 2014.

One definite change for 2013 will be Pirelli's sidewall color markings.

"The colors will change," said Hembery. "Our marketing department is not fully satisfied, but I don't want to give too much away."

Stewards summon Vettel for Button near-miss
(GMM) Singapore winner Sebastian Vettel was summoned to the stewards late on Sunday night.

The FIA officials are looking into his incident with Jenson Button during a safety car period, when the McLaren driver almost slammed into the rear of Vettel's Red Bull.

"I almost wiped you out," Button, who ultimately finished 9 seconds behind Vettel, told his German rival before going onto the podium.

And Button told reporters: "I closed my eyes, I didn't know what was going to happen.

"Seb is in control of the pace but when someone accelerates, you don't expect them to brake (immediately). I was very close to him and locked up the front but managed to avoid him."

Button was also summoned to the stewards.

Meanwhile, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has hinted Button may succumb to team orders as teammate Lewis Hamilton chases the 2012 title.

"Jenson has had a conversation with me, he initiated it," he told the BBC.

"He's an immensely competitive individual, but he's a team player. Things that happen in the future will come from within him. I'll never ask and I don't want to ask.

"If he chooses to do something in the best interest of the team, that's up to him."

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