Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Bernie Ecclestone

    Ecclestone hits back after Gribkowsky bribe admission

  • Pirelli wants to stay in F1 beyond 2013
  • McLaren confident Button slump to end now
  • McLaren helped design British armored vehicle
  • Door open for Perez despite commitment to Sauber – Slim
  • Massa 'smiles' as brighter future looms
  • Domenicali fuels Vettel-to-Ferrari rumors
  • No 'special trick' as midfield shines in 2012 – report
  • Mercedes strengthens Schumacher's team for Valencia

Ecclestone hits back after Gribkowsky bribe admission
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has hit back after German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky this week sensationally admitted he received millions in bribes from the F1 chief executive.

Gribkowsky recalled the diminutive Briton telling him that, "In formula one, the practice is you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".

German media reports said the former BayernLB risk officer also told the court that Ecclestone said he had the power to re-shuffle contracts so that the bank's stake in the lucrative sport would be diluted.

At the same time, Ecclestone reportedly told Gribkowsky that "If you help me to sell formula one, I will employ you as a consultant".

Ecclestone, whose conduct amid the sport's sale some years ago is also being probed by the Munich prosecutors, responded to Gribkowsky's court admission by telling the Telegraph that the jailed banker is trying "to save himself".

"I suppose he would say that," the 81-year-old explained, "so maybe he gets seven years instead of 14 years.

"The poor guy has been banged up for 18 months. He would have said anything to save himself. He was going to be locked up whatever happens," Ecclestone added.

In a separate Telegraph article by journalist Christian Sylt, Ecclestone said he was considering whether to take legal action against Gribkowsky.

Widespread media reports confirmed that Gribkowsky's admission means he now faces a maximum of nine years in jail, rather than many more.

The judgment is expected next week.

Pirelli wants to stay in F1 beyond 2013
(GMM) Pirelli has indicated its desire to stay in formula one beyond its current contract.

The sport's controversial sole tire supplier returned to F1 at the beginning of last year, having won a three-year tender from governing body the FIA.

"Our current contract ends at the end of the 2013 season, but we still want to be in F1 in the medium and long term," motor sport director Paul Hembery is quoted by the French-language website

"If the sport wants us to stay and we can convince the management to continue, then we intend to keep going," the Briton reportedly added.

McLaren confident Button slump to end now
(GMM) McLaren sounds confident it has solved the issue that risks derailing Jenson Button's 2012 title bid.

The 2009 world champion admitted he was "confused and very lost" after the recent Canadian grand prix, when he was lapped by the identical car driven to victory by his teammate Lewis Hamilton.

"(Since Canada) There's been a huge amount of work carried out back at the factory, analyzing the data to check everything was as we thought it was," team operations director Simon Roberts told reporters on Wednesday.

He said no flaws were found on Button's MP4-27 or even with the basic setup, "But, subtly, there are differences with these cars," he confirmed.

"And I think going into Valencia we are quite optimistic we have identified them. I think we can have a slightly different way of getting Jenson's car under him for both qualifying and the race," added Roberts.

Some analysts claim the 'topsy-turvy' results seen so far in 2012, with seven different winners including Button winning the opening seven grands prix, is due to the Pirelli tires only working within a tiny operating 'window'.

"We think we've stepped nearer to understanding it all," Roberts continued. "Whether we've cracked it, only time will tell.

"It's been a painful but interesting learning exercise for us."

McLaren helped design British armored vehicle
(GMM) McLaren played a role in developing a $1.4 million armored vehicle for British troops to use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The Sun newspaper said the British formula one team, as well as BMW and world rally engineers, helped with the design of the new Foxhound truck, which arrived in Afghanistan last week.

The Foxhound has a top speed of 113kph, a V-shaped bottom to deflect bomb blasts, can be driven even with a missing wheel, and can have an engine replaced in just half an hour.

"This government has spent 270 million pounds on 300 of these high-tech, British-built vehicles to help keep our troops properly protected," said British defense secretary Philip Hammond.

Door open for Perez despite commitment to Sauber – Slim
(GMM) Carlos Slim is happy at Sauber, but the Telmex chief is not ruling out a change of direction as Sergio Perez pushes to the front in formula one.

"Peter Sauber is a person who knows the business of F1 like no other and is characterized by his development of new talent," Mexican Slim, who is 22-year-old Perez's high profile financial backer, told the sports newspaper Marca.

"The (Telmex) partnership has two sides," he explained. "On the one hand there is our interest with Sergio Perez, whilst on the other hand we have committed ourselves as a company to the (Sauber) project."

But, whilst at Sauber now, Perez is also the cream of Ferrari's driver development program, and has been linked with Felipe Massa's race seat.

Asked specifically if Telmex would follow Perez to Ferrari, Slim answered: "We want, some day, to see one or more world champion Mexican drivers.

"If we can accompany them on the way … but the important thing is right now," he insisted.

"He (Perez) has shown that, in the future and with the right tools, he can win races and the championship."

On a sponsor event in Switzerland on Wednesday, Perez was asked about his future and simply told Le Matin newspaper: "My focus for now is on this season."

Massa 'smiles' as brighter future looms
(GMM) Ferrari, and even Bernie Ecclestone, have publicly backed Felipe Massa as the calls for his scalp get quieter after the Brazilian's recent boost of form.

Prior to Monaco, where the struggling 31-year-old took a step forward after a start to 2012 that looked set to cost him his career, some paddock voices were even saying Ferrari needing to axe Massa well before 2013.

Now, Massa appears back in the running to secure a new deal, as Sauber aims to keep hold of its major backer Telmex and Sergio Perez, and Mark Webber looks set to stay at Red Bull.

"To me it's obvious," F1 chief executive Ecclestone told German journalists recently in an interview republished this week on Ferrari's website.

"Felipe is very talented and there's not much to add."

And, crucially for Massa, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali nodded that he agrees "completely" with the sport's supremo.

"After Felipe drove a great race in Monaco, the same journalists who had been criticizing him began to ask me why he did not yet have a contract for next year," Domenicali said.

Asked if in Domenicali's shoes he would stay behind Massa, Ecclestone insisted: "Of course!

"He is doing a good job, what's he doing wrong?"

A separate report on Ferrari's website this week confirmed that Massa has been all "smiles" after Monaco and Canada.

And even after the world's media expected the famous team to condemn the Brazilian for his Montreal spin, Ferrari actually said in its official race statement that he "had the pace to match the front runners".

"It's true," the driver confirmed on Wednesday. "I'm much happier, because I can drive the F2012 much more in the way I like now."

No 'special trick' as midfield shines in 2012 – report
(GMM) '2012 tire lottery' is not a term one would hear seriously deployed this season within the garages of traditional midfield teams including Sauber, Lotus and Williams.

Until now, as an unprecedented seven different winners scooped the honors at the opening seven grands prix of the year, top teams including McLaren and Red Bull have referred constantly to the tiny 'window' of operation of Pirelli's 2012 tires.

But "The window for the tires has not become smaller," Sauber's technical director Matt Morris is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport as insisting.

"No, it's the cars' (operating window that has changed)," he argued.

His boss Peter Sauber said the top teams "underestimated" the cost of losing the advantage their blown diffuser and flexible front wings had previously given.

Indeed, even Dr Helmut Marko, energy drink Red Bull's motor sport consultant, had to admit all the talk about the tires has been overstated.

"Sauber seems to understand them (the tires) — and almost all of the time," said the plain-speaking Austrian.

Pirelli motor sport director Paul Hembery agrees it is not true that the top teams don't "understand" the tires.

He said it's just a matter of balance.

"He is probably spot on," said German journalist Michael Schmidt. "Lotus, Sauber and Williams are not shining because of a special trick, but because of well balanced aerodynamics."

Mercedes strengthens Schumacher's team for Valencia
(GMM) Mercedes has beefed up Michael Schumacher's support team for Valencia, as the team bids to end his shocking run of reliability.

Whilst Nico Rosberg has finished every race so far in 2012 and is right in the hunt for the title, Michael Schumacher's record features no fewer than five DNFs, leaving him with more points only than the six hapless drivers of the bottom-three teams.

Bild newspaper reports that in a bid to finally stop the rot, team boss Ross Brawn has decided to bolster Schumacher's support team with a new additional chief engineer.

His job will be to monitor the work of the regular mechanics, after Brackley based Mercedes "double and triple checked" every component of the seven time world champion's W03 car ahead of Valencia.

"What is happening at the moment with Michael is not the standard that we are striving for," admitted Rosberg.

Brawn added: "Our standards here are extremely high. We haven't changed our approach or any of our procedures; we haven't taken any short cuts or let the system slip in any way, so it's been highly frustrating and peculiar.

"So we're constantly looking at how we can improve the way we work, and we can do better."

Hinting at his Concorde Agreement dispute with Mercedes, meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone fired a barb at Mercedes when asked about Schumacher's troubles.

"I think that if he was still at Ferrari, he would still be winning today," the F1 chief executive told Germany's Sport Bild.

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