Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • New 3-year deal for Spa

    Spa agrees new three-year grand prix deal

  • De Villota no longer in intensive care – sister
  • Hamilton tells McLaren to rethink car design
  • Ticket refunds could cost Silverstone millions
  • Bright future for Silverstone winner Webber
  • Sauber 'has no future' with current drivers – Benoit
  • Massa confident of keeping Ferrari seat
  • McLaren loses another 35 points to Red Bull
  • Fines for Maldonado and Kobayashi

Spa agrees new three-year grand prix deal
(GMM) Spa-Francorchamps will continue to host the Belgian grand prix for at least the next three years.

Jean-Claude Marcourt, economics minister for the local Wallonia region, told public broadcaster RTBF that the "agreement in principle" for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons was reached with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

"We were able to negotiate a contract extension for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, where there will be the Belgian grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps in Wallonia," he said.

The current contract expires after this September's race at the hugely-popular circuit.

"What I wanted to do was to reduce the size of the expenditure budget for the Walloon region," Marcourt continued, "and I would say we have accomplished the mission.

"There was no way we could continue to lose as much money as we have been."

The minister said earlier plans to annually alternate the event with France ended along with Nicolas Sarkozy's administration.

Marcourt said that plan "was considered at the request of our French friends. Unfortunately or fortunately, they did not give practical effect to those proposals, and so we decided to sign for a further three years".

De Villota no longer in intensive care – sister
(GMM) Maria de Villota has moved out of the intensive care unit at a Cambridge (UK) hospital.

Marussia boss John Booth said on Sunday that the team's test driver is no longer in an artificial coma and has therefore been able to speak with her family, including her father and former F1 driver Emilio de Villota.

"Her level of sedation has been reduced markedly," he told the Spanish broadcaster Antena3.

De Villota's sister Isabel is quoted by the Spanish media as saying the 32-year-old has "made good progress in the last hours" and has "left the ICU unit".

But she warned: "The coming days will be crucial for her recovery and to determine the extent of the consequences (of her injuries)."

Hamilton tells McLaren to rethink car design
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has told McLaren engineers to go back to the drawing board after the team slid backwards at Silverstone this weekend.

The British grand prix proved that not only Jenson Button is struggling with the MP4-27, as Montreal winner Hamilton started and finished eighth on a layout that was expected to suit the local favorites.

"We are still in the fight, but unless we find a lot of time, it's going to be hard to stay in it," said Briton Hamilton, now 37 points behind Fernando Alonso's championship lead.

Button, who struggled even more than Hamilton at Silverstone, said even Williams and Sauber are now racing past McLaren: "It's not just the Red Bulls and the Ferraris that are quicker than us, a lot of cars are."

"The Sauber is quicker in high-speed corners than us, the Williams is quicker in low-speed corners. We don't seem to be exceptionally strong anywhere at the moment," he said.

Red Bull's Christian Horner told Auto Motor und Sport on Sunday that the chrome cars "were not a factor today".

"But at this stage of the season I'm not writing anyone off. Not even Jenson Button."

His Ferrari counterpart Stefano Domenicali agreed: "The championship is still very open.

"I am sure that McLaren will bounce back."

But veteran engineer Joan Villadelprat wrote in his El Pais column that the Woking based team appears to be "in free fall".

The message from Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal, is that McLaren is suffering amid F1's new Pirelli era.

"I like to understand a problem mathematically," the Briton said, "but in this case it seems that thinking too much doesn't help at all."

Hamilton, however, is urging the designers and engineers to think hard, even about the very basics of the 2012 package.

Asked if the MP4-27 is fundamentally flawed, he said: "I'm not using those words, I'll let you use those words.

"You've got to look at the cars in detail — just look at them and ours looks different from the others."

He is undoubtedly referring to the fact that – the McLaren-linked straggler Marussia aside – the MP4-27 is the only car on the grid without a 'stepped' nose.

"That's a significant difference," Hamilton admitted. "I'm not an aerodynamicist but there's got to be something there, so that's what we're looking at for this car, but also for next year's car.

"It is too big a change for this season."

Ticket refunds could cost Silverstone millions
(GMM) This weekend's British grand prix debacle could cost Silverstone millions, track boss Richard Phillips has admitted.

Organizers have vowed full refunds for thousands of spectators who heeded the circuit's plea to stay away from the mud and traffic chaos on Saturday.

"It's going to cost us a lot of money," he told the Guardian.

"I honestly don't know the figure, but it could be a lot more than hundreds of thousands (of pounds)."

Phillips did, however, hail the patience and perseverance of the Silverstone crowd, after an ordeal that was recognized even from within the F1 paddock.

"I saw fathers with their sons and daughters, old ladies with backpacks and teenagers, all covered in mud and wearing their coats and hats," said O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio.

"I have never seen anything like this country. They are the best fans," said the Brazilian correspondent.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug agreed.

"They are the best fans in the world," said the German. "They have taken everything – the rain, the cold – and they still came in their thousands."

Bright future for Silverstone winner Webber
(GMM) Mark Webber's second win of the 2012 season has only ramped up the already-rampant speculation about his future.

Going into Sunday's British grand prix, rumors were linking the 35-year-old with either a new contract at Red Bull, or a sensational switch to Ferrari.

Afterwards, with Australian Webber now within sight of the championship lead and joining Fernando Alonso as 2012's only multiple race winners, speculation he will be wearing red overalls next season is at fever-pitch.

Sensing the rumor, Spaniard Alonso grinned: "I need to put something on my shoes to be a little bit taller."

Backtracking, he insisted: "I'm extremely happy with Felipe (Massa). Today, again, he showed the performance that he can do, with a normal, trouble free race.

"We will see what the team decides."

Webber had to admit that overtaking Alonso for the Silverstone win, and seeing his championship odds slashed by leading bookmakers, will do his future no harm.

"I'm not low on confidence at the moment," he smiled. "It's going well," said Webber, who has 16 more points than his teammate Sebastian Vettel.

For Christian Horner, the urgency of sitting down for contract talks with Webber has stepped up a gear, the Red Bull chief saying it will happen "in the next couple of weeks".

"We have a great relationship with Mark and I think he wants to be in our team next year," he is quoted by the Sun newspaper.

"All things with Mark are pretty straightforward. This is his seventh season with Red Bull and he has had all his success in F1 with us. We would like to see that continue.

"Inevitably there's an awful lot of speculation about Ferrari," Horner admitted, "but Mark has given me every indication that he is very happy."

Sauber 'has no future' with current drivers – Benoit
(GMM) Veteran correspondent Roger Benoit has called on Sauber to rethink its driver lineup.

The Swiss team went into the British grand prix as the dark horse for victory, and afterwards even McLaren's Jenson Button admitted the C31 was perhaps the best car in the field.

Sauber's points tally, however, was zero.

Qualifying was going well until engineers made what team boss Peter Sauber admitted was the "obvious mistake" of fitting intermediate tires for the sodden circuit.

Then came the race. Sergio Perez ended it with a fit of rancor, denouncing Pastor Maldonado – who was fined EUR 10,000 by the stewards – as a "stupid driver" after their crash.

Kamui Kobayashi, meanwhile, barreled into his pit crew, sending two members to the medical centre with minor injuries.

That earned the apologetic Japanese a EUR 25,000 fine, for what Niki Lauda described as "one of the stupidest mistakes I have seen for years".

"I've written it in (the newspaper) Blick several times," Benoit insisted. "With this driving duo, Sauber has no future."

Massa confident of keeping Ferrari seat
Felipe Massa enjoyed his strongest result of 2012 by finishing fourth in the British Grand Prix. The position was his best since Monaco, where he took the checkered flag in sixth place, and puts him level with Michael Schumacher in the championship standings. Furthermore, the Paulista believes he can do enough to stay at Ferrari next year.

“It was a good race and I am glad to have finally brought home a good result for me and for the team," said the Brazilian, whose last race victory came in the final event of the 2008 campaign.

“Race after race, the situation has been improving and now we are capable of fighting for the podium; it might have happened here, but it could also have been possible in Montreal and Valencia, which means that today’s performance is not a fluke.

Massa’s Ferrari position is one of the hot topics this season, with a selection of drivers theoretically queuing up to take the place alongside Fernando Alonso.

“Is it enough to confirm my place at Ferrari?" Massa added of Sunday’s performance. “I don’t see any reason why that could not happen if, as I said, the results come."

Massa’s effort of 1:35.041 leaves him fifth in the table of Sunday fastest laps, quicker than Alonso and just one tenth of a second slower than race winner Mark Webber

McLaren loses another 35 points to Red Bull
In terms of championship position, the British Grand Prix was one of the worst of 2012 for McLaren. With Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finishing only eighth and tenth, their total of five points is in stark contrast to the 40 collected by Red Bull pairing Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, who crossed the line in first and third positions.

“It wasn’t a great race for me – I just wish we could have done more for the fans today," said Hamilton, who had dominated the British event four years ago. “We tried as hard as we could, but we simply didn’t have the pace this afternoon. My tires were still good at the end of my first stint and I was able to hang on to Fernando (Alonso), so it’s hard to understand how we could be leading the race at one point and then fall back to eighth place, especially as our car doesn’t feel bad overall.

“I raced my heart out and was flat-out right to the end. We’re still in the hunt for the World Championship and, if we can find a bit of lap time, we can stay in the hunt, too. I gave the fans a little donut on the slow-down lap – simply because I wanted to say thank you to everyone who came out to watch us here today. I’d love to have done better in my home Grand Prix but, regardless, the fans were fantastic throughout the weekend."

Jenson Button was knocked out in Q1 qualifying and started 16th after picking up two places because of penalties ahead. The 2009 title winner rose to tenth, snatching the final point when the Force India of Nico Hülkenberg ran wide at Copse.

“It was good to get a point in my Grand Prix, but of course that’s not what we ought to be doing," he admitted. “We’re a front-running team and we’ve got a bit of work to do to start running at the front again. I don’t think we made any mistakes with our strategy today – we’re just not quite quick enough at the moment, that’s all."

McLaren is no longer Red Bull’s closest challenger for the teams’ title, having now dropped down to fourth place behind Ferrari and Lotus.

Fines for Maldonado and Kobayashi
Both Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi have received fines for their discrepancies in Sunday’s British Grand Prix. The Williams driver ran into the Sauber of Sergio Pérez, whereas the second Sauber took down several members of his pit crew.

Maldonado – who drove into Pérez in Monaco practice before being involved in the Lewis Hamilton incident of the European Grand Prix – contacted with Pérez at Brooklands, while the Mexican had attempted the usual passing maneuver on the outside line.

As a result of the contact, which took Pérez out of the race, Maldonado is fined 10,000 euros (£8,000) and received an official FIA reprimand from stewards including former World Champion Nigel Mansell.

Kobayashi must pay up the even greater sum of 25,000 euros (£20,000) for out-braking himself and inflicting minor injuries upon several members of his pit crew.

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