Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • Sergio Perez headed to Ferrari?

    Behind the glitz, F1 looks to solve costs crisis

  • Perez spotted at Ferrari amid Kovalainen rumors
  • Force India 'massively quick' at Valencia
  • 'No mystery' as Sauber enjoys Pirelli season
  • Hamilton cheery or cheesed off as Button copies setup?
  • Bandage on Alonso's knee, Glock unwell
  • Paul Ricard mentions September deadline for GP certainty
  • Schumacher puts focus on rear tire life

Behind the glitz, F1 looks to solve costs crisis
(GMM) Formula one is always glamorous and shiny, but this weekend in Valencia, a harsh alter-reality is also obvious.

Floating in the port city's harbor is the Indian Express, one of the world's biggest and most valuable private superyachts that is owned by Vijay Mallya, the boss not only of Force India but also the sinking airline Kingfisher.

That the Indian billionaire's boat is such a centerpiece this weekend is a paradox, amid near-empty grandstands in crisis-struck Spain and frenzied discussions in the motor homes about the urgent need to slash costs.

"He (Mallya) probably doesn't know whether it's good times or bad," Williams co-owner Toto Wolff shrugged to the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung.

F1 is considering a number of measures to reduce costs, or increase incomes. One option for the latter is simply to expand the calendar, collecting and sharing new promoters' money.

One rumor is that up to three or four new races could be added to the 2013 schedule.

"The year has 52 weeks. We should have 26 grand prix!" Toro Rosso's Franz Tost said half-seriously, causing his Lotus counterpart Eric Boullier to explode with laughter.

"There is no exact number, no magic number," the Frenchman agreed, "but I'm rather like Franz — more races, why not?"

Another idea could provide a new source of income for the bigger teams, whilst reducing the vast design and manufacturing costs for the minnows and providing better value for their sponsors — customer cars.

"I would like to see some of the smaller teams with a single car sold by a top team, which had been used the previous year," Bernie Ecclestone is quoted by the Sapa-AFP news agency.

"Perhaps it could be driven by a rookie. Some teams would certainly get better results compared to now and spend less, immediately," he added.

The F1 chief executive seemed to rule out a "budget cap".

"It wouldn't work," he is quoted by the Spanish newspaper AS. "You can't stop the teams from spending all of the money they have."

Perez spotted at Ferrari amid Kovalainen rumors
(GMM) As F1's 'silly season' shifts into a high gear in Valencia, the cameras snapped with glee on Friday when Sergio Perez and his manager Jaume Sallares walked calmly into Ferrari's hot-red motor home.

Mexican Perez, of course – whilst undoubtedly linked with Felipe Massa's race cockpit for 2013 – is also the cream of Ferrari's driver development program.

So Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni was able to joke when he answered to Spain's AS newspaper: "He has signed … he has come to sign."

Another rumor in the Valencia paddock is that Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen is also a candidate to replace Massa.

"At the moment I'm hearing that Perez is not the first in the queue," MTV3 journalist Erkki Mustakari said.

"Heikki's strong performances have been noted," he insisted, whilst conceding "This is all largely speculative."

Indeed, Finn Kovalainen, 30, said his talks about a contract beyond 2012 have not even begun.

"There are no negotiations in any direction yet," he revealed, "as there are probably a few drivers ahead of me who have not made their decisions yet."

Force India 'massively quick' at Valencia
(GMM) As F1's topsy-turvy 2012 seeks an eighth different winner at the eighth race weekend of the season, Force India appeared to leap into contention in Valencia.

Paul di Resta was sixth fastest on Friday morning, before his teammate Nico Hulkenberg came a mere tenth of a second from upstaging Sebastian Vettel for the best time of the entire day.

So far in 2012, the Silverstone based team has appeared largely out of the loop, as its formerly midfield rivals including Lotus, Sauber and Williams genuinely battle for champagne spoils in the hotly-contested and unique 2012 title race.

But harbor-side this weekend, it could be Force India's turn.

"There is no explanation for it," Hulkenberg marveled to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, insisting the Mercedes-powered car has not been majorly upgraded, or is particularly well-suited to the Spanish street layout.

Montreal winner Lewis Hamilton admitted: "Force India looks massively quick so who knows what's going to happen."

Also comparatively quick, however, are Red Bull, Sauber, Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren — all separated by less than a second on Friday.

'No mystery' as Sauber enjoys Pirelli season
(GMM) If the top teams are to be believed, engineers up and down pitlane are groping in the dark to solve the mysteries of Pirelli's 2012 tire.

But the sport's Italian supplier has hinted that is just an excuse, as midfield teams like Sauber have become regular podium contenders so far this year.

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko admits: "Sauber seems to understand them (the tires) almost all of the time."

Peter Sauber, the modest Swiss team's founder and boss, insists it has not been a case of unraveling a Pirelli mystery.

"Put is this way," he told Blick newspaper. "We understand the car.

"Basically, we know how to use the tires. Except in Bahrain, where it was very hot, we've had no big problems."

The sun is also out in Valencia, but Sauber insists it is presumptuous in any conditions to say his team is in a position to push for wins.

But Mexican Sergio Perez, who has been on the podium twice so far in 2012, has another plan.

"I want more," he answered when asked about his second taste of 2012 champagne in Canada recently.

"If you can finish second and third, the next goal must be victory."

Hamilton cheery or cheesed off as Button copies setup?
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton's expression gave little away as insiders wondered if he is cheery or cheesed off about the situation inside McLaren.

He is the sport's latest winner and the new world championship leader, but he described as merely "interesting" the recent realization his engineers were giving away the game to struggling teammate Jenson Button's side of the garage.

So lost was Button after being lapped by Hamilton in Canada that McLaren decided the only course of action was to get the two sides of engineers together.

"I went to the factory last week (and) I saw all the top engineers together on one table," Hamilton told reporters at Valencia.

"They had all of my data out, lap by lap, noting all the things I did differently to Jenson to try to understand things. So he has absolutely every detail of what I'm doing differently.

"So I'm sure we'll see a difference this weekend," he said.

It was hard to tell if the 2008 world champion was proud he was finally back on top of his highly-rated teammate, or piqued that his speedy secrets were the subject of internal espionage.

Pointed out that Button sounds more confident now, Hamilton answered quickly: "I'm sure he does.

"There's been a lot of work that's gone on with his car."

But surely it's a good feeling for Hamilton to know he's so on top of his game at present that a fellow world champion is having to copy his approach?

"Not really," the 27-year-old insisted. "Personally, I prefer the olden days where they didn't have all that data logging and it was down to the driver. Now it makes it a lot easier."

Bandage on Alonso's knee, Glock unwell
(GMM) Fernando Alonso is sporting a bandage around his right knee in the Valencia paddock.

He played down the injury.

"It's nothing, I had a fall in cycling and it will heal but for now it's just a bit swollen. It's nothing important," the Ferrari driver is quoted by Spanish sports daily AS.

Also firing on less than the full eight cylinders on Friday was Marussia's Timo Glock, suffering from a stomach bug and running a shorter program.

"For a time I have to say I was feeling quite unwell," said the German. "Back in the car I have felt a little better and I am hopeful that I am on the mend."

Paul Ricard mentions September deadline for GP certainty
(GMM) Paul Ricard boss Stephane Clair has revealed the uncertainty about France's return to the F1 calendar could drag on for many more weeks.

Prior to Nicolas Sarkozy losing the country's recent general election, the circuit looked destined for the 2013 calendar, thereafter alternating annually with Belgium's Spa Francorchamps.

The new government is currently reviewing the project and also considering Magny Cours as a possible host, but Paul Ricard's Clair insisted that time will eventually run out.

"Even if we still don't know at the beginning of September, we will have time to prepare the necessary infrastructure and market the grand prix," he is quoted by L'Equipe.

"Beyond September, it will be harder."

Indeed, more should be known by September, when the World Motor Sport Council is set to release a 2013 calendar.

"For us, late August is the ideal date, because of the weather and the accommodation capacity in the Var region," said Clair.

He also raised the interesting prospect of an alternating scheme between Paul Ricard and Magny Cours, insisting he has "no opposition in principle" to the idea of "two French grands prix".

Schumacher puts focus on rear tire life
Michael Schumacher ended Friday’s second practice session in fourth position, despite suffering a number of large front lock-ups in Valencia. However, it is rear end grip which is the German’s biggest worry as Mercedes heads into the weekend.

“Our work today was reasonably good, with obviously a lot of data to be confirmed now in our technical briefings before qualifying," Schumacher said on Friday evening.

“The second session initially started with an issue with the clutch, but it turned out to be okay. Of course we are aware that it will be a challenge for everybody, especially to keep the rear tires alive, but this is as expected. Let's see what we can do tomorrow."

Mercedes has worked vigorously on reviewing each of Schumacher’s technical problems so far this season, with the seven-time World Champion having retired from five of the seven races to date – four of them because of mechanical issues.

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