Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

Alonso in F3000 in 2000, the year he betrayed Todt and Ferrari


  • Todt reveals Alonso's 2000 'betrayal'
  • No one better on market to replace me – Massa
  • Mercedes eyes 'contingencies' amid Hamilton rumors
  • Power-players Ecclestone, Todt meet with Ferrari
  • No grid penalty for Alonso after failures
  • Banned Grosjean supporting Lotus at Monza
  • 'Brand Hamilton' and wily Fuller driving intrigue New
  • Red Bull's alternator problems return New
  • Kubica eyes 2014 for F1 return New
  • No panic over 2013 decision, says Perez New

Todt reveals Alonso's 2000 'betrayal'
(GMM) Jean Todt has revealed he did not attempt to sign Fernando Alonso during his time as Ferrari boss due to an earlier betrayal.

The Frenchman, who is now the FIA president, reigned over Ferrari from the 90s until 2008.

At the end of 2006, he chose Kimi Raikkonen as the retiring 'number 1' Michael Schumacher's replacement, even though Spaniard Alonso – now Ferrari's long term hope – was also on the market.

Alonso was only subsequently brought to Ferrari by Todt's successor Stefano Domenicali, and Todt has now told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport exactly why.

He recalls 2000, the year before Alonso – then an impressive fresh-faced F3000 driver – made his F1 debut with Minardi.

"We (Ferrari) reached an agreement in principle with Fernando, but then (Flavio) Briatore signed him," said Todt.

"It was after his victory in F3000 in Spa when we got in contact with his manager, who came to my home in Maranello, and we agreed.

"It (Alonso signing with Briatore) was something I took badly and after that there was no more contact."

The rest – Alonso's two titles with Renault, his ill-fated switch to McLaren and finally his debut as a Ferrari driver in 2010 – is history.

Alonso's manager in 2000, Adrian Campos, confirms: "Ferrari told us to wait and not to sign with anyone else, but Briatore walked through the door with a contract under his arm."

Todt named the "very good leader" Alonso, as well as Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton as "the favorites" to win the 2012 title.

No one better on market to replace me – Massa
(GMM) With Ferrari still yet to re-sign him for 2013, Felipe Massa insists he sees no better alternative to him on the market.

Rumors say Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez are the frontrunners to replace Massa next season, but the Brazilian thinks he is the best choice.

"Many people want my seat," he is quoted by Spain's Mundo Deportivo newspaper, "but I do not see anyone better on the market.

"In my place I only see people like Hamilton or Vettel, but they're not available," Massa added.

Meanwhile, the 31-year-old said he will do everything to help his teammate Fernando Alonso win the 2012 title, even if he acknowledged he might be racing elsewhere next year.

"I have no contract yet for 2013, but I will help Fernando," he vowed.

"I am a professional and will behave like that."

Massa hailed the performance this year of Spaniard Alonso, who at the wheel of the same Ferrari model has scored a massive 129 more points, and is leading the championship.

"The F2012 is not a winning car, but Fernando is perfect," he said.

Mercedes eyes 'contingencies' amid Hamilton rumors
(GMM) Norbert Haug has admitted Mercedes is eyeing possible "contingencies", in the event Michael Schumacher does not race the German team's 2013 car.

"Of course we have to plan for all contingencies," said Mercedes' competition vice-president, amid raging speculation Lewis Hamilton might sensationally switch from McLaren to drive in Schumacher's place next year.

Haug is quoted by SID news agency as revealing the team is conducting "open and faithful" talks with Schumacher.

And when asked about Hamilton, he added: "Lewis grew up with us (Mercedes) and with McLaren. We worked together even when he was 12 years old.

"But it is not possible to conclude from this that the current rumors have any basis."

An outright denial sounds different. Indeed, Haug acknowledged the speculation.

"As long as seats are available, you have to deal with it. We do not spread the rumors, but we have to live with them," he said.

The latest rumors were fanned by former team owner and now British television pundit Eddie Jordan, but McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh questioned their credibility.

"I think that any article that includes a sentence that begins 'Eddie Jordan understands …' is automatically questionable," he told the BBC.

But Jordan's television colleague David Coulthard, a former long-time McLaren driver, said the Irishman has earned more credibility than that.

"EJ has a reputation for being a bit outspoken but he has brokered more driver deals than almost anyone in the sport, has contacts all over the place and is friendly with Lewis's manager, Simon Fuller," he wrote in the Telegraph.

"I cannot recall him being wrong when he has stuck his neck out like this. He was right about Michael Schumacher coming back to the sport three years ago, for instance," Coulthard noted.

So for now, the Hamilton saga is the talk of the Monza paddock.

"He looks so unhappy at McLaren — I think he will go," an unnamed team principal told the Guardian.

Jenson Button, Hamilton's teammate at McLaren, thinks the 2008 world champion would be mad to move.

"It wouldn't hurt me as much as I think it would hurt him," he said.

But as Coulthard surmised, no one at present really knows if Hamilton is staying or going. And "I'm not sure that he does either," said the Scot.

Power-players Ecclestone, Todt meet with Ferrari
(GMM) F1 power players Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt on Friday met with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo at the fabled Italian team's Maranello headquarters.

Ferrari admitted the meeting was "cordial and productive", but it comes at a fascinating and awkward time for formula one, as all three sides clash over key issues.

Ecclestone and Todt, for instance, are arguing over the FIA's desire to make more money from the sport, while Montezemolo is being told by Todt to pay much more for entry fees next year.

The Ferrari president, meanwhile, slammed as a "joke" Todt's vision of electric cars on the grid.

Montezemolo is not even ruling out Ferrari quitting the sport.

"If formula one is not any more an extreme technology competition, where the technology can be transferred to the road car, maybe we can see formula one without Ferrari," he told CNN this week.

Todt, however, who revealed that Stefano Domenicali was also at the Maranello meeting, is putting his mind to attracting new manufacturers to F1, whilst ensuring that Mercedes' argument with Ecclestone does not cause the German carmaker to quit.

"I don't think that will happen, but we must do everything to keep them in formula one," he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

And: "Maybe I can get some manufacturers who are involved in long-distance races – Audi, Toyota, Porsche and the Koreans – to produce engines for F1," said Todt.

The key, he said, is cutting costs.

"Since 2005 we have reduced the cost by 30 per cent, but in the next three years we need another 30 per cent or we risk losing some teams," said Todt.

No grid penalty for Alonso after failures
(GMM) Tifosi favorite Fernando Alonso will not have to move five places down Sunday's Italian grand prix grid.

Some broadcasters on Friday said there was a risk the Spaniard, who endured a bad practice Friday at Ferrari's home Monza circuit, would cop a penalty for his gearbox breakdown.

But technical director Pat Fry explained: "Gearboxes are free on Friday obviously."

Alonso also had a brake problem as well as an engine failure on Friday, but Fry added that the latter glitch was because it was "a Friday engine at high mileage".

Championship leader Alonso, meanwhile, said that even though the F2012 seems more competitive at Monza compared to Spa a week ago, he thinks "McLaren is the favorite to win" on Sunday.

Lotus and Mercedes look quick as well.

Red Bull, however, has not been impressive on the high-speed Autodromo so far in 2012.

"I think overall we are not as quick as we would like to be," admitted 2011 Italian grand prix winner Sebastian Vettel.

Banned Grosjean supporting Lotus at Monza
(GMM) An unusually-forlorn Romain Grosjean was an unhappy pitwall spectator on Friday as he began to serve his one-race ban for last Sunday's Spa crash.

The Frenchman arrived at the Monza paddock as practice began, to watch Lotus' reserve driver Jerome d'Ambrosio drive his black and gold car.

Asked by RMC Sport if he has thought deeply about the crash that wiped Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso out of the Belgian grand prix and also cost him EUR 50,000, Grosjean answered: "Think (about it), yes, but then again I would say no because I don't necessarily want to relive it.

"I just wanted to understand why (it happened) so I can go to the next race in Singapore stronger," he added.

Normally smiling ear-to-ear, Grosjean admitted it is hard to be trackside in such difficult circumstances.

"It is not pleasant to come to Monza and not race," he said. "It was a collective decision. We are together as a team in good times and in bad.

"We didn't ask, neither me nor the team, it (coming to Monza) just seemed natural.

"The team has offered me amazing support all week. So, today, I am happy to be here to try to help if I can. If Jerome has any questions, I will answer them with pleasure for the team to score points in the championship.

"It may also be interesting to see how Kimi (Raikkonen) works.

"I spent two sessions with the engineers on the pitwall and noticed a lot of interesting things that I want to try in Singapore."

Grosjean did not want to say if he thinks the penalty – the first time the FIA has banned a driver in almost two decades – is unfair.

"It's severe but I accept it, and hopefully we can grow from it.

"I think we are going to review some things, redesign the weekends a little bit, focus on different things to be better equipped for the starts.

"To throw everything away and start from scratch would be a mistake," added Grosjean.

'Brand Hamilton' and wily Fuller driving intrigue
(GMM) McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has hinted Lewis Hamilton's management is in the driving seat of the current situation surrounding the 2008 world champion's unknown future.

Eddie Jordan was the one who dropped the Mercedes bombshell, but seasoned insiders are sensing the intrigue is really being steered by Simon Fuller, the wily Spice Girls manager who through his XIX Entertainment arm now handles Hamilton's career.

It is easy to surmise the Mercedes story was planted simply to ramp up Hamilton's 2013 price-tag, but it may not be just about that.

Indeed, Jordan – who is reportedly close to Fuller – said he suspects the Mercedes link is about 'brand Hamilton'.

"Fuller is trying to position Hamilton as a major global star like Beckham, and Mercedes is a much bigger global brand than McLaren," said the British television pundit and former F1 team owner.

McLaren team boss Whitmarsh agrees: "Lewis and his team are very interested in the Hamilton brand and providing anything that happens doesn't distract him from being a race driver, we are 100 per cent relaxed about it.

"We are not at odds over that."

McLaren, though, famously guards the drivers' corporate and even personal images, and their ability to exploit and explore them.

"The life I have had has been very controlled and I am taking control of it," Hamilton said earlier this week.

"I am allowing myself to get who I am out, rather than the corporate McLaren driver some people want you to be."

That would put into context the recent 'WTF' and secret telemetry 'Twittergate' affairs.

And just before that controversy exploded, the British driver also let his million Twitter followers know recently about the serious illness of his auntie.

"I think Lewis had a personal issue at a time when it's possible we put a lot of pressure on him — and it probably was not appropriate to put a lot of pressure in that particular moment, because of his personal situation," Whitmarsh told F1's official website at Monza.

And keeping a firm grip on the entire situation, is the wily Fuller.

"This team is a pretty good place for him to be," Whitmarsh told the BBC. "I know that but he (Hamilton) has got to believe that and more importantly, at the moment, his management have got to believe that."

Red Bull's alternator problems return
(GMM) Red Bull's alternator problems are back.

Sebastian Vettel's car broke down in the final practice session at Monza on Saturday morning.

He radioed the pits that the problem was battery-related.

"It's the same problem as Valencia," Dr Helmut Marko told Germany's Auto Bild Motorsport.

At Valencia, the Renault/Magneti Marelli alternator failed, costing Vettel victory, while a similar problem also struck Romain Grosjean's similarly-powered Lotus.

Kubica eyes 2014 for F1 return
(GMM) Robert Kubica said on Saturday he could be back in F1 in 2014.

After almost two years out of the limelight following his horror rally crash of early 2011, the Pole is finally back in action this weekend at another minor Italian rally.

"Back in formula one?" Kubica told Sky Sport 24. "In 2014, but I still don't know if my journey will take me there."

Kubica confirmed he will also take his Subaru Impreza to yet another forthcoming Italian rally.

No panic over 2013 decision, says Perez
Sergio Perez has fended off constant links with a Ferrari race drive, instead insisting that there is ‘no panic’ to sign any contracts. The Mexican is hot favorite to replace Felipe Massa, should the Brazilian not be retained by the Maranello squad.

Perez is already on Ferrari’s books as a member of their young driver academy and has been loaned to Sauber for the 2012 campaign. His imminent future remains to be seen.

“Of course this question had to pop up again!" he laughed when interviewed by the official F1 website. “To be honest, I am fine with it. I am concentrating completely on the racing and giving 100 percent and more for my team – and the rest we will see.

“No panic – there will be a decision…and of course it is coming nearer and nearer, but we are not there yet."

Perez has impressed many this season, not least as he has picked up two podium finishes and demonstrated a clear ability in looking after tires. He sits ninth in the title race.

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