Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

UPDATE Updates shown in Red below.


  • Martin Whitmarsh puts on brave face

    Whitmarsh puts brave face to Hamilton rumors

  • Button admits to wanting 'Hulk' as 2013 teammate
  • Fernandes upset with Kovalainen's manager – report
  • Raikkonen says 2013 contract not guaranteed
  • Singapore tipped to keep popular grand prix
  • Coach helping Grosjean find 'right balance'
  • Drivers ask FIA to shorten Singapore race – de la Rosa
  • Stewards 'undoubtedly stricter' in 2012 – Maldonado
  • Pirelli eyes Kubica as next F1 test driver
  • Mercedes ready to sign new Concorde – report
  • Stand-in engineer for Hamilton
  • Fernandes to 'eventually' step down as Caterham boss
  • Singapore staying on F1 calendar New
  • CVC biding time on F1 flotation as new investors come in New

Whitmarsh puts brave face to Hamilton rumors
(GMM) Martin Whitmarsh put on a brave face in Singapore as the media grilled him over Lewis Hamilton's uncertain future.

According to some paddock sages, the 2008 world champion is now on the verge of jumping ship to Mercedes for 2013.

But McLaren boss Whitmarsh denied that the length and intensity of the period of speculation has been a distraction.

"No, I don't think it has been," he insisted.

"I know that there are stories and speculation that swirl around and I guess that's formula one and I think we're content to get on with the job quietly."

But what is obvious is that insiders and journalists are no longer swallowing Whitmarsh's recent claim that the Hamilton-to-Mercedes reports are just "fantasy".

In fact, Whitmarsh on Friday denied he ever said that word.

"I don't remember that, but I think if you told me that he had signed the deal (then) that was fantasy," he said, adding that he is sure Hamilton has received offers from other teams because "he's a very good racing driver".

But Whitmarsh continues to deny that McLaren is lining up the candidates to replace Hamilton.

He at least acknowledged the role money is playing in the saga, confirming Hamilton wants "more", while McLaren wants to pay the 27-year-old "less".

"That's how business normally works," Whitmarsh quipped.

On a whole, the press corps in Singapore didn't buy Whitmarsh's story, one journalist telling the McLaren principal that his answers smacked of "putting on a brave face".

"It's not a question of that," Whitmarsh insisted, "it's a question of focusing on doing our job, and we're concentrating on this year's championship."

Button admits to wanting 'Hulk' as 2013 teammate
(GMM) It was either a slip, a joke or pure mischief when Jenson Button said in Singapore he would like "the Incredible Hulk" as his 2013 teammate.

The McLaren driver quickly explained that he wasn't really referring to Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who has a similar nickname and has been linked with a move to a better team next year.

But Button has admitted to enjoying the wild speculation that is surrounding the uncertain plans of his current teammate, Lewis Hamilton.

He obviously doesn't mind adding his two cents, as well.

For instance, Button's manager also handles the career of Scot Paul di Resta, and Button said on Friday that the other Force India driver is "very, very talented".

Sauber's Sergio Perez is also strongly linked with Hamilton's seat.

"He is a quick learner," said Button. "He can't be bad if he is doing as well as he is."

If Hamilton does move to Mercedes, the conventional thinking is that Michael Schumacher will be pushed back into retirement.

But the seven time world champion has also been linked with Sauber, while Germany's Bild newspaper reports that Mercedes would be prepared to keep the great German on board as sporting director next year.

Fernandes upset with Kovalainen's manager – report
(GMM) Tony Fernandes has admitted to some frustration as he attempts to re-sign Finn Heikki Kovalainen for the 2013 season.

The last three years with Caterham have restored the 30-year-old's reputation, and so his manager Martin Anayi has been hawking his talents to other teams.

But when Kovalainen signed his first deal with Caterham chief Fernandes, he was managing his own affairs.

He subsequently moved to the IMG Motorsport management stable.

Kovalainen has reportedly been in talks with Sauber, Ferrari and Lotus.

And talks with Caterham reportedly only began this week, in Singapore.

"I do not particularly like his manager, although I think I have a good relationship with him (Kovalainen)," Fernandes admitted to the Finnish MTV3 broadcaster.

But Malaysian Fernandes admits it is possible Kovalainen will move teams.

"Well, it's … I don't know," he said. "I would like Heikki to stay, very much."

Raikkonen says 2013 contract not guaranteed
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has confirmed he has a contract with Lotus for 2013, but insisted that doesn't mean he will definitely be with the Enstone based team.

Fending off rumors the Finn is a candidate to move to Ferrari or McLaren next year, Lotus owner Gerard Lopez recently revealed Raikkonen's current contract includes an option for the 2013 season.

Raikkonen confirmed that "option" to the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

But the 2007 world champion also insisted: "You never know what is going to happen. We have seen before in formula one that even if you have a contract, it doesn't mean you're going to drive somewhere."

Raikkonen is undoubtedly referring to 2009, when at the end of that season Ferrari paid the 32-year-old to sit out 2010 in order to make room for Fernando Alonso.

MTV3 said Raikkonen's 2013 'option' expires at the end of September.

The driver confirmed he is likely to stay.

"I have no reason to do something else," he said.

Singapore tipped to keep popular grand prix
(GMM) The relevant government minister sounds confident Singapore is staying on the F1 calendar.

Although the city-state's five-year-old night race is now arguably the most spectacular stop on the sport's annual schedule, organizers and Bernie Ecclestone are yet to agree on a new sanctioning fee.

The Times reports that, despite the fact Singapore's current fee at below EUR 10 million is quite low, organizers are pushing for a Monaco-style "no-fee deal" for the future.

The press thinks Singapore deserves it.

The Times' Kevin Eason said the floodlit ambience would "send chills down the spine of any Hollywood director", giving the organizers a rare and "significant advantage" in the negotiations with F1's wily chief executive.

The Telegraph's Tom Cary agrees.

"Organizers may be haggling with Ecclestone but this is one grand prix that is here to stay.

"Sponsors love it, drivers love it, fans love it; this race has energy, it has a future, unlike some of the duds which have been added to the mix in recent years," he wrote.

S. Iswaran, the tourism minister, is confident Singapore will win the day.

"We're quite optimistic that we can close the gaps … if it works out, then we should be able to announce it quite soon", he is quoted by Channel Newsasia.

Coach helping Grosjean find 'right balance'
(GMM) Romain Grosjean's new coach has confirmed he is working with the Lotus driver.

Back on track after his Monza ban, the French driver arrived in Singapore this week with Benoit Campargue, a former Judo champion who coaches France's heavyweight champion Teddy Riner.

Campargue told Le Figaro in Singapore that, while he has been working with Grosjean since March, this is his first grand prix alongside the 26-year-old, who served a one-race ban at Monza recently.

He said they are working on devising better routines for the Lotus driver.

"The important thing is to find the right balance in a natural way," said Campargue.

He told L'Equipe: "I am very pleased with his recovery (since the ban). I see someone serene and relaxed and at the same time concentrated.

"I must also thank Lotus, who prove that F1 is not always closed."

Drivers ask FIA to shorten Singapore race – de la Rosa
(GMM) F1 drivers have in the past asked the governing body to reduce the length of the Singapore grand prix.

Hot, humid and under artificial lights on a demanding street circuit, the event is regarded as perhaps the toughest physically on the entire 20-race F1 calendar.

Spanish veteran Pedro de la Rosa confirmed that description, even though this weekend is actually the HRT driver's very first competitive taste of the Marina Bay layout.

"But I have been in several meetings of the GPDA and it is the only world championship circuit where there were people asking Charlie Whiting to reduce the number of laps," he is quoted by Marca sports newspaper.

De la Rosa said Singapore is like Monaco in terms of "effort and concentration", with the big difference being "humidity and distance".

"Here (the race) is 309 kilometers, Monaco is 260," he explained.

Stewards 'undoubtedly stricter' in 2012 – Maldonado
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado has revealed he thinks the stewards are being tougher in 2012 compared with other F1 seasons.

Along with the Monza-banned Romain Grosjean, Venezuelan Maldonado has been regarded as the 'bad boy' of the current season, copping no fewer than 14 official sanctions from the thirteen grands prix so far.

"We have to adapt to what the stewards want," the Williams driver told AS sports newspaper. "This year they're being harder than before.

"Undoubtedly they are stricter now," he told the Spanish publication.

Fernando Alonso said recently he thinks the new generation of F1 driver is more aggressive, due to the nature of the feeder series GP2.

"Yes, you could say that, but on the other hand that's not our fault, it's the fault of the officials for accepting many things in GP2 and not many things in formula one."

Pirelli eyes Kubica as next F1 test driver
(GMM) Robert Kubica could step up his quest to return to formula one by becoming official tire supplier Pirelli's next test driver.

The Italian marque's current main tester, Jaime Alguersuari, is tipped to return to the paddock with a competing team in 2013.

Pole Kubica, regarded as one of F1's most talented contemporaries until his early-2011 rallying crash, recently returned to competitive action after a 19-month recuperation with a couple of minor Italian rally outings.

The 27-year-old fared well, but Kubica has said he is unlikely to attempt a full return to F1 until at least 2014, due to the reduced mobility of his right arm at present.

But Pirelli's Paul Hembery told Auto Motor und Sport he might be open to Kubica becoming the official F1 tire tester in 2013.

"It's a possibility," said the Briton.

"I don't know if he's in a position to do the job at the moment, but he is definitely the kind of driver that we are looking for."

Hembery admitted he has not spoken to Kubica "for some time".

But "If he is physically capable, and spends a year with us, it would for sure bring him into a good position to maybe return (to racing) in 2014.

"It would be really great if we could do that," he added.

Mercedes ready to sign new Concorde – report
(GMM) Mercedes parent Daimler has reportedly decided to stay in formula one beyond 2012.

In Singapore this weekend, rumors swirled in the paddock that the Stuttgart manufacturer is on the verge of pulling the plug.

That, combined with the dithering over the 2012 Concorde Agreement, could explain the long delay in Lewis Hamilton's decision about whether to join the so-called 'Silver Arrows' in 2013.

German sources had reported that Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche has ordered cost cuts of more than a billion euros in the Mercedes road car division.

That ramped up fears that the F1 program would also get the axe.

Responding to the rumors, Norbert Haug said in Singapore: "I believe we have already established the right balance with regards to the costs (of competing in F1).

"I say that our budget is reasonable while our results are not good enough," he is quoted by DPA news agency.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport now reports that Daimler has decided to definitely keep the Mercedes brand in formula one, meaning the new Concorde could be signed as early as next week.

Stand-in engineer for Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has a new race engineer for the next few races.

The McLaren driver's chief race engineer is usually Andy Latham, but he is on paternity leave at present.

The British team said that leave will continue "for a few races".

During that time, Hamilton's usual performance engineer Mark Temple has stepped into the main role, beginning with this weekend's Singapore grand prix.

Fernandes to 'eventually' step down as Caterham boss
(GMM) Caterham owner Tony Fernandes has admitted the team's latest recruit could "eventually" take over as boss.

The team announced on Friday that Cyril Abiteboul, until now the deputy managing director at engine supplier Renault, has signed up as Caterham's chief executive.

For now, Fernandes remains in charge.

But the Malaysian entrepreneur admitted on Friday that he is "not as involved" in the team as he could be, hence Abiteboul's appointment.

Fernandes also runs his airline AirAsia, the leisure group Tune, and is the chairman of his English football club Queens Park Rangers.

"I am not as involved (in F1) so the team needs leadership," Fernandes said in Singapore.

"Cyril has been someone that I've courted for a while and we've finally persuaded him, with Renault's blessing, to come over to Caterham."

Asked whether Abiteboul is now Caterham's new team principal, Fernandes answered: "Not at the moment, no.

"I will still remain in that job for a while. Eventually, maybe."

Singapore staying on F1 calendar
(GMM) Singapore has inked a new contract to remain on the formula one calendar.

There had been some doubt the race organizers would agree Bernie Ecclestone's sanctioning fee demands for a new deal beyond this weekend's highly popular night race.

But the F1 chief executive said at the official announcement on Saturday: "We are here for another five years".

Ecclestone admitted the negotiations had been "difficult", because everyone in the entire sport "without exception likes being here".

Tourism minister S Iswaran said Singapore has indeed managed to reduce the financial impact of the event by agreeing a "revised" fee.

"We eventually got there," agreed Ecclestone.

CVC biding time on F1 flotation as new investors come in
CVC Capital Partners, which holds 35% of the business that owns Formula 1′s commercial rights, has taken on a couple of new high powered investors in the shape of government backed funds from Singapore and Kuwait in recent months, according to reports.

At the same time the sale of CVC’s stock which reduced its holding from 63% to around 35% and netted the firm $2.1 billion earlier this year, has also given them the luxury of being able to bide their time on a floatation of the F1 business. A floatation here on the Singapore Stock Exchange was prepared for this Autumn, with a prospectus issued, but was put on hold due to volatile market conditions and the fall out over the Facebook flotation.

For the moment the flotation is on hold and the talk is that there is no immediate plan to revive it, although the preparations are at the point where it can be revived quickly if the conditions should demand it.

However there is quite a lot to be sorted out behind the scenes in F1 first, with the new 2013 Concorde Agreement, a cost control mechanism for teams, sporting regulations and the ongoing role of the FIA still to be finalized. At present, for example, none of the F1 teams are yet entered in the 2013 world championship.

The success of the partial sale of CVC’s F1 stock to Waddell & Reed, Norges Bank and Black Rock was that it gave the business three high powered cornerstone investors, allowed them to draw down $2.1 billion to use elsewhere in its businesses and set the value of the F1 business at around $9 billion and bought time on the floatation side.

Meanwhile Sky News’ Mark Kleinman, who keeps a close eye on CVC’s activities, has reported this week that government backed funds from Singapore and Kuwait “have bought 10% of CVC’s management company in a deal, which reinforces its status as one of the most influential private investors in the world."

Meanwhile Bloomberg analysts believe that CVC has already managed a return of almost five times its original investment in F1, back in 2006. James Allen on F1

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