Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Whitmarsh defends Michael

    Finger-pointing at Sam Michael premature – Whitmarsh

  • Vergne insists even Vettel struggled at Toro Rosso
  • Schumacher rejects six-week deadline for 2013 decision
  • Hamilton 'ready' to end uncertainty over future
  • Silverstone braced for soaking grand prix
  • 'Greedy' di Resta admits eye on better team
  • Renault reverts to 2011 alternators after failures
  • Vettel denies safety car conspiracy theory
  • FIA admits Alonso and Hamilton escaped Valencia sanctions
  • Senna admits he must 'do well' to stay at Williams
  • Chance of new Ferrari deal 'better' now – Massa
  • De Villota still 'critical' after test crash

Finger-pointing at Sam Michael premature – Whitmarsh

(GMM) Martin Whitmarsh has backed McLaren's under-fire sporting director Sam Michael.

Australian Michael joined the team this year after being ousted at Williams, at the end of that famous British team's worst season in memory.

Some have linked McLaren's repeated tactical and pitstop errors with Michael's arrival, but boss Whitmarsh insists that, in fact, some of the team's recent pitstops have been the fastest in history.

Telegraph journalist Tom Cary said that is "like saying you have scored the most beautiful goal in (soccer) but let in five at the other end".

Whitmarsh, however, said 41-year-old Michael has time.

"He's doing a good job," said the Briton.

"I think if we're not the best race team in the world this time next year the fingers can be pointed a bit more strongly".

Actually, rounding on Michael could have been a way for Whitmarsh to lift some of the pressure on his own shoulders.

Not since taking over from Ron Dennis for 2009 has McLaren won a title.

But Whitmarsh insisted that "I can say to you, honestly, that I don't feel I have a monkey on my back but when – and I stress when – we win the championship I might reflect differently."

Rumors persist that it may never happen under his reign.

"Ron and I have an interesting relationship," he said when asked about Dennis, who has been an increasing presence at recent races.

"It's not always a positive one. And if there's one person who wants to be team principal it's him. But there is no pressure from Ron whatsoever. No pressure from outside really," Whitmarsh said.

"Ultimately the pressure is from inside me.

"I'm very aware of the fact that it's the 50th anniversary of the team next year and there have only ever been four team principals — Bruce (McLaren), Teddy Mayer, Ron and myself."

Vergne insists even Vettel struggled at Toro Rosso

(GMM) Jean-Eric Vergne has backed himself to improve after a difficult start to his F1 career.

Almost half a season since Toro Rosso dumped its established lineup of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, the perception is that French rookie Vergne has failed to match up against his only-slightly-more-experienced new teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

The 22-year-old doesn't see it quite like that.

"Overall it's been quite positive even though the results don't show it," he is quoted by RMC Sport. "I've learned a lot."

Vergne said the biggest stumbling block has been the performance of Toro Rosso's 2012 car, and so it is in that area that the tensions lie.

"It's not easy, there is tension," he acknowledged. "Everyone is under pressure.

"When the car is better, it (the situation) will be better. But I have good people around me and they're all there to help."

He acknowledged that Australian Ricciardo has been better mainly in qualifying, "But I think I have improved with every race".

"I am pushing to progress and it's the same thing with the car. Maybe it will happen at the same time and the results will come then."

When Vergne was told there has been particular criticism of him – even from within the Red Bull-owned camp – he sounded surprised.

"I haven't heard that much. And I only listen to criticism from people who are close to me because it helps you to move in the right direction," he insisted.

"I am patient, and confident that by continuing to work, the results will come. When I have a good car, everything will be easier."

Vergne denied he is racing against a deadline before suffering the same fate as Buemi, Alguersuari and other discarded Red Bull youngsters who went before him.

"Everyone needs time to adapt," he insisted.

"They tell me that Vettel had a disastrous first season with them, and after that, it started to work well," Vergne smiled.

"As my technical director (Giorgio Ascanelli) says: you don't eat a cow in one bite!"

Schumacher rejects six-week deadline for 2013 decision

(GMM) Michael Schumacher appears to have rejected the new six-week deadline over his plans for 2013.

Earlier this week, Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn indicated that the issue of Nico Rosberg's teammate next year will be decided "this summer".

But it was then reported that, in fact, it is seven time world champion Schumacher who possesses a unilateral option to extend his three-year deal beyond the end of this season.

And at Silverstone on Thursday, he scoffed at the reports all will be known within six weeks.

"There can certainly be no decision from my side before October," the 43-year-old is quoted by DPA news agency.

So is Brawn not backtracking?

"Our focus is on Michael," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"There is no deadline for when we need to make the decision, it just has to be the right decision."

Brawn speculated that Schumacher will be weighing up his chances of success in 2013.

"A good driver always looks first to see if the technical basis is correct," the Briton said. "The commercial side comes after that.

"Any sensible driver knows that he needs a good car to win."

Rosberg, Schumacher's teammate throughout the great German's three-year comeback since 2010, repeated his desire to see the 43-year-old go on.

"Yes, that would be very good," he is quoted by Die Welt newspaper.

Hamilton 'ready' to end uncertainty over future

(GMM) Lewis Hamilton says he is finally "ready" to wrap up the recent speculation about his future.

"I am ready to get it done," he told reporters at Silverstone on Thursday.

"Being ready means you've made a decision and you know what you're going to do."

It is widely expected that the 2008 world champion and McLaren want to extend their successful collaboration, but have clashed over issues including pay and whether Hamilton can keep his trophies.

The Daily Mail said the British driver's manager Simon Fuller, heading the XIX Entertainment stable, is now "starting negotiations" over Hamilton's contract.

Confusingly, therefore, 27-year-old Hamilton clarified that – in fact – he is not quite ready to sign.

"I could end up just waiting until the end of August or even later in the season, I just really don't know," he said. "It will happen when it happens."

And then, to cap the confusion, he indicated that he has not even decided what he is going to do.

"Is it a weight off my mind? Not really. It will be when I've made the decision," said Hamilton.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh surmised the situation: "Lewis knows my feelings and I think he wants to stay.

"At the same time I have to accept the fact that his management have to try to exploit their asset," he is quoted by the Telegraph.

Silverstone braced for soaking grand prix

(GMM) Silverstone is braced for a soaking wet British grand prix, as torrential rain greeted the sunrise on the opening day of 2012 action.

Paul di Resta on Thursday had already advised his fans to pack their "rain jackets", because "it looks like they're going to get wet."

Perhaps he had read about race organizers spreading 1000 tones of hardcore across vulnerable roads and car parks around the Northamptonshire venue.

Or maybe he has seen the severe storm warning, or the forecast of a month's worth of rain in the space of two days.

Jenson Button is worried sodden fans will suffer through the rain during practice only to find the drivers are huddled under the cover of the pits.

"We are so limited on our tire allocation that we are not going to run much," he told reporters on Thursday.

"We will do our best but there will not be much going on."

Sebastian Vettel agreed: "We need to find a balance between practicing enough to set up the car and evaluate the new parts but saving tires as much as we can for qualifying and the race."

As for the spectators, the signs are not good — already this weekend, Button has had to dig his personal motorhome out of the Silverstone mud.

"There is a hole in the field but it is ok," the McLaren driver grinned, then sparing a thought for ardent race-goers who are pitching tents in the "meter of mud".

'Greedy' di Resta admits eye on better team

(GMM) Paul di Resta has admitted his ambition is burning to move up the F1 grid.

But the 2013 'silly season' might have come at an awkward time for the Force India driver, in the wake of reports this week he has split with his manager Anthony Hamilton.

"I think everything's been said that has to be said. I confirm that we're not working together," Scot di Resta said at Silverstone on Thursday.

But he denied the situation could spoil the momentum of his apparent links to bigger teams for 2013.

"At the end of the day, it's the results that count for me and what's going to drive me forward," said the 26-year-old, who closed down any further discussion about his management split.

According to the Independent newspaper, he was more willing to talk about the rumors he has been discussed behind closed doors by Mercedes, McLaren and possibly even Ferrari.

"It's not a distraction," he insisted, "it's a compliment in a way. And it's no secret that I want to win races in F1.

"I'm happy where I am, but I'm greedy because I want more."

Renault reverts to 2011 alternators after failures

(GMM) Renault has reverted to an older specification of its alternator for the use of customers Red Bull, Lotus, Williams and Caterham this weekend at Silverstone.

The decision follows the French supplier's struggles to get to the bottom of the problems that caused Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean to retire last time out at Valencia.

A similar issue was also reportedly linked to a problem suffered by Vitaly Petrov at Monaco.

"This (problem) is a great puzzle," Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports. "Not even Renault knows exactly what went wrong."

Remi Taffin, Renault's track boss, confirmed that factory tests after Valencia showed "signs" of the problem recurring, but no definitive "conclusions".

He confirmed that 2011-specification alternators have therefore been supplied to Renault's customers for the British grand prix.

"We are confident that it will not happen again, even though at the moment we cannot identify the causes of the problems 100 per cent."

Taffin added that Renault has also made tweaks to the engine maps.

Vettel denies safety car conspiracy theory

(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has denied ever suggesting the FIA deployed the safety car at Valencia as a deliberate ploy to spoil his race.

The reigning world champion, and Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko, were quoted after the recent European grand prix as implying that Charlie Whiting only neutralized the race to deliberately curb Vettel's runaway race lead.

Shortly after the safety car period, ostensibly to clear crash debris from the track, the furious Vettel's RB8 failed.

Asked about his reported conspiracy theory, the German said on Thursday: "What I said is that, in my opinion, there was no reason for the safety car to be on the track. Then I said that it ruined my race.

"I never said that it was (deployed) to ruin my race," he is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"That was written by those who have the habit of removing important parts (of quotes) to make it more sensational.

"I have reviewed the race and I still have the same opinion, but I do not dispute the decision of the officials. They always have more information than we do in order to make their decisions.

"Agree or not, I always respect them," said Vettel.

Vettel's apparent backtracking follows reports last week that the FIA was unamused by the reigning back-to-back title winner's post-race comments.

FIA admits Alonso and Hamilton escaped Valencia sanctions

(GMM) Valencia winner Fernando Alonso, and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, only narrowly avoided penalties at the recent European grand prix.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport has revealed the details of a team bosses meeting that took place at Silverstone on Thursday.

They were told by FIA officials that Alonso and Hamilton technically broke the rules at Valencia, and would have been sanctioned if rival teams lodged official protests.

Hamilton reportedly overtook pole sitter Sebastian Vettel twice on the pre-race warm-up lap; a practice that is not allowed.

And Spaniard Alonso also broke the rules by accepting the Spanish flag from a marshal on the slowing-down lap, after thrilling the partisan crowd by winning.

Meanwhile, Blick newspaper has crowned Hamilton the unofficial "bad guy" of formula one, on the basis of a document doing the rounds in the Silverstone paddock.

It is a list of all the punished offenses in F1 over the last ten years — with the 27-year-old British driver in clear pole position.

Senna admits he must 'do well' to stay at Williams

(GMM) Bruno Senna has asked his critics to give him more time before writing him off.

Despite his famous name, and two previous tenures in formula one with HRT and Lotus (nee Renault), the 28-year-old has notably struggled alongside Pastor Maldonado this season at Williams.

"There is pressure that comes with my surname, plus people think this is my third year in formula one, which it is not," he told the Sun when asked about his struggles in 2012.

Senna admitted some of the pundits' "bad comments" hurt him initially.

He argued: "This is the first time I have been in a competitive car with a proper structure behind me, so I am taking my time to learn it properly instead of trying to do everything all at once.

"I think people should look at me and make their judgment at the end of the season. If you look at a few of drivers, they were not as strong in their first year.

"But I am sure the second half of the season will be easier because I will have some experience of those tracks from last year, but it is a learning curve."

Some pundits believe that if Senna can not at least match his teammate Pastor Maldonado, who has won a race this year despite his own 'pay driver' label, he has no future on the grid.

"You want to win every race," Senna admitted, "but you need to be realistic. It is going to be tough to match Pastor, because he did a great job.

"But if I do well enough until the end of the season, then I will stay here."

Chance of new Ferrari deal 'better' now – Massa

(GMM) Felipe Massa has admitted he now stands a "better chance" of staying at Ferrari next year.

Previously rampant speculation that the struggling Brazilian's days are numbered at the famous Italian team has been quietened by his recently improved form.

He is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper: "Until now there is no sign that I'm close or far away," said the 31-year-old when asked about the likelihood of a new Ferrari deal for 2013.

"There is a greater chance now but I don't know what will happen," Massa admitted.

"Everything changes very fast in formula one. The important thing is to do a good job and to get a good result at the end of the races.

"If that happens then it will all be easier," he insisted.

Although there are signs Mark Webber will stay at Red Bull for another season, the Australian is still regarded as Massa's most likely successor.

The 35-year-old smiled as he shrugged on Thursday: "For next year I've a pretty decent chance I'll be racing in F1."

De Villota still 'critical' after test crash

(GMM) Three days after her horror testing crash, Maria de Villota remains in a "critical but stable condition", her sister Isabel has revealed.

Spaniard de Villota, 32, suffered severe facial and head injuries and lost her right eye after the accident, and underwent a long surgery in a Cambridge (UK) hospital.

"I hope she can recover as much and possible to have a normal life," reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel said at Silverstone on Thursday, according to Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"We don't know what happened, whether it was a mechanical failure or a mistake — I have talked with Timo Glock and even the team doesn't know what happened," added the German.

"The most important thing is that she recovers," said Vettel.

The Daily Mail newspaper said doctors are relieved that de Villota has no swelling on her brain.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said she is currently in an artificial coma but has suffered "no new complications" in the wake of the surgery.

"On Friday, she will be operated on again," the report added.

Marussia racer Glock admitted the team is in a somber mood ahead of its home race.

"Especially for the people who were there (at Duxford)," he said, "it is difficult, but it is not normal for any of the team at Silverstone."

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