Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • F1 to delay Singapore floatation
  • Briatore admits working on alternate F1 rules
  • Hakkinen 'certain' Lotus can win Monaco
  • Ferrari needs new number two for Alonso – Prost
  • Ecclestone to push calendar beyond 20 races
  • Rosberg tips Schumacher to stay in 2013
  • Stewart urges Hamilton to stay with McLaren
  • Button 'worried' about topsy-turvy 2012
  • Top ten 'possible' admits champion Vettel
  • Sauber slams Red Bull over cost-cutting
  • Politics steered France return off track – Ecclestone

F1 to delay Singapore floatation
(GMM) Plans to imminently float formula one on the Singapore stock exchange may have stalled.

Bernie Ecclestone, F1's new chairman Peter Brabeck, and CVC representative Donald Mackenzie, admitted in Monaco on Friday that the high-profile, multibillion dollar listing might be delayed.

"I think we made a step forwards but no decision has been taken," Brabeck is quoted by Reuters.

Mackenzie said the recent selling of a $1.6 billion F1 stake to three new owners had changed things.

"If anything it has reduced the pressure or the need for an IPO or a next step and that's why the board looked at the IPO today as one option," he said.

And the Gulf Times quotes Ecclestone as saying: "The market doesn't look too bright after that little bit of a problem with Facebook.

"So I think they are going to wait and see."

Briatore admits working on alternate F1 rules
(GMM) Flavio Briatore could be central to F1's future.

The Italian, who was ousted and banned from the sport amid the 'crashgate' scandal a few years ago, was back in the paddock in Monaco on Friday.

He admitted he has been working on new regulations, with speculation suggesting they will be an alternative should F1's commercial rights holders split with the governing FIA.

"At the moment F1 is a hobby but I speak regularly with Bernie; there are even days when we speak two or three times," Briatore is quoted by the Spanish newspaper AS.

"I have proposed new regulations that would be good for all the teams, to increase the spectacle and, above all, reduce the costs."

He said success would be possible on a team budget of "(EUR) 100 million" per year.

"That's a hell of a lot of money," Briatore told Auto Motor und Sport.

On Monday, a high-powered meeting will take place in Monaco.

Present will be FIA president Jean Todt, Ecclestone and the teams, according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

The report said "most teams want the FIA to continue to write and control the rules".

"F1 needs a third perspective," Mercedes' Ross Brawn said.

Commented Red Bull's Christian Horner: "I see the potential for conflict.

"Bernie is worried about the show. The sound of the engines is a big part of it."

Part of the engine dispute is already in the public domain, with the FIA and the manufacturers pushing for the new turbo V6 to debut in 2014, and many of the small teams wanting a delay.

Ecclestone is also on the other side of another debate, as he would reportedly like to see established constructors Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Williams supply customer cars to their smaller rivals.

It is a high stakes situation, with Briatore's 'GP1' idea potentially giving Ecclestone more control but probably losing the crucial names 'formula one' and 'world championship'.

That would have value implications for the planned Singapore floatation.

"It would not be desirable if the FIA is no longer there," said Peter Sauber. "The big teams would just do what they want."

Force India's Otmar Szafnauer added: "It would be bad for our credibility if we didn't have an independent regulator."

Horner disagrees: "You could write your rules by committee with everyone involved and show them to the FIA to make sure they work, just like GP2."

Hakkinen 'certain' Lotus can win Monaco
(GMM) Mika Hakkinen thinks his Finnish countryman could be the favorite for Monaco victory.

"Based on practice – looking at how the cars behaved and how the drivers were driving – I have the impression that Kimi has very good performance," the 1998 and 1999 world champion told Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"I am quite certain," added Hakkinen, referring to Lotus' prospects of fielding a potentially winning car in Monte Carlo.

Should Kimi Raikkonen or Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean win on Sunday, he will be the sixth winner for the sixth different constructor in the sixth race of 2012.

That would be unprecedented in the history of the sport.

Ferrari needs new number two for Alonso – Prost
(GMM) Alain Prost has tipped Ferrari to sign a new number two teammate for Fernando Alonso next year.

It is widely expected that struggling Felipe Massa will be ousted at the end of his 2012 contract.

"Ferrari is unique," four time world champion and former Ferrari driver Prost told Spanish AS newspaper in Monaco.

"A new teammate for Alonso is complicated because he is such a strong driver.

"For them I think it's best not to have two top-level drivers together. I honestly don't know if taking on a young driver or a more experienced one is best.

"But in any case they shouldn't have two first-class drivers, because they already have a number one with Alonso," added the famous Frenchman.

Prost admitted he is a fan of Alonso's.

"He is always there – always – and that is a characteristic of him. Sometimes his car is better, at other times less so, but he is always in the points, always there, never failing.

"In a championship like this, with so much equality, that is so important," he added.

Ecclestone to push calendar beyond 20 races
(GMM) The new Concorde Agreement will allow Bernie Ecclestone to expand F1's race calendar.

The current deal provides for 17 races, with only separate agreements with the teams pushing the existing race schedule to twenty grands prix between March and November.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone said this weekend in Monaco that he is close to finalizing the 2013 commercial contract with all the teams.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, business journalist Christian Sylt reports that the new deal will "allow Ecclestone to set up more races".

The 2013 Concorde builds in the "flexibility to go beyond 20 races", Ecclestone confirmed.

"We have got four or five places waiting to do something."

One host in waiting is Thailand, who have made their intentions clear by successfully bidding to host this year's end-of-season Race of Champions event in December.

"We aim to bring formula one to Thailand as well," said the southeast Asian country's sports minister Chumphol Silpa-archa.

Rosberg tips Schumacher to stay in 2013
(GMM) Nico Rosberg has repeated his view that Mercedes should extend his teammate Michael Schumacher's contract beyond 2012.

With talks about Schumacher's deal set to begin soon, there has been speculation that Mercedes is weighing up replacing the great German with its former DTM protege Paul di Resta.

Shanghai winner Rosberg, however – whose own contract with the German marque definitely runs into 2013 – has consistently said he is happy sharing a garage with 43-year-old Schumacher.

"It works great between us and also for the team," he is quoted by the DPA news agency.

"So I think it would be good if he goes on."

Rosberg said he thinks criticism of Schumacher's recent performance is unjustified.

"He is at a very high level, he has just had a very poor start to the season, which can happen to anyone," said the German.

Stewart urges Hamilton to stay with McLaren
(GMM) Sir Jackie Stewart clearly believes Lewis Hamilton should accept McLaren's offer.

It emerged in Monaco that the famous British team is offering the 2008 world champion a more than $150 million, new five-year contract, that would extend his McLaren tenure beyond a decade and his 33rd birthday.

It would also make Hamilton, 27, F1's highest paid driver.

Reports, however, have suggested the Briton and his management are prepared to hold fire whilst key seats at Red Bull and Ferrari remain open.

"Without McLaren," said triple world champion Stewart, "Lewis Hamilton would not exist, certainly in terms of where he is in his career.

"And McLaren are one of the great teams in formula one — not in the past, but now," the famous Scot told the Daily Mail.

"They employ great engineers. They invest in winning."

Stewart indicated that the Woking based team is a better option for Hamilton than Red Bull and Ferrari.

"Red Bull have a brilliant designer, Adrian Newey, but can they be any more certain of delivering a championship every year than McLaren can?

"They are the only alternative to McLaren. And I say that because you could not be sure what Ferrari will deliver.

"Even if they could build a winning car, he would have Fernando Alonso as his teammate — and he's been there," added Stewart.

Button 'worried' about topsy-turvy 2012
(GMM) F1's topsy-turvy 2012 risks turning off confused fans, Jenson Button has warned.

The McLaren driver was the first of the sport's five winners so far this season, with a sixth this weekend to create all-time history.

But while some are enthralled by the unpredictability, a slightly "worried" Button warned that the time will come when fans will cease to understand the sport.

"I think it will get to a point where they will wonder who they are supporting and why someone is winning and someone is losing," he told reporters on Friday.

"Why is everyone a loser and everyone a winner?"

Button said traditional F1 engineering has been turned on its head in 2012, with the sport's cleverest minds often resorting to doing "the opposite" of what their intellect and experience suggests in order to tweak a car.

"It is very strange," he said, "and it is all because you cannot get the tires in the right working range."

Flavio Briatore, who admits to working on a set of alternate regulations at present, laughed when asked about the spectacle of 2012.

He said the odd Pirelli tires are having the same effect as a "budget cap" — equalizing the best and the less-financed teams.

"With all due respect to Maldonado, it's a bit strange that he's able to beat Alonso in a Ferrari," said the flamboyant Italian.

"We need some balance in the degree of surprise," he told Auto Motor und Sport.

Reigning world champion and current joint championship leader Sebastian Vettel on Friday denied that F1 has become akin to a "lottery".

"Let's remember when the same people said that Michael Schumacher winning everything was boring," the Red Bull driver told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"But of course we have to be careful that F1 remains a sport, and a sport cannot appear artificial."

F1 veteran Jean Alesi, this weekend preparing for his first Indy 500, said the 2012 winner will not have won a lottery but will have put together the most consistent campaign.

"Look at Alonso," he told Austria's Laola1. "His car is not even among the best four in the field yet he is leading with Vettel."

Times journalist Kevin Eason agreed: "If F1 is now a gamble, why are the three leading drivers in the world championship – Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton – also the trio rated highest by most pundits?"

At any rate, David Coulthard thinks the 'spectacle versus purist' debate is a valid one.

"It raises fundamental questions about racing and entertainment and what we want to see from formula one," the former Red Bull and McLaren driver wrote in his Telegraph column.

"But I don't agree with the premise that grands prix are now a lottery. I'm yet to see anyone say the tires are inconsistent from set to set.

"This is all part of the formula one battle," he insisted.

Top ten 'possible' admits champion Vettel
(GMM) Last year's Monaco winner, the reigning back to back world champion Sebastian Vettel, is simply dreaming about the top ten in 2012.

In a remarkable turnaround for Red Bull, the latest Adrian Newey-conceived single seater looks genuinely outpaced on the Principality's streets by Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Sauber, Mercedes and possibly others.

"The top ten is possible, I think," German Vettel is quoted by Sport1.

But his teammate Mark Webber warned: "That could be pretty difficult."

It is therefore a remarkable turnaround to consider that back to back constructors' champions Red Bull could be the ones hoping a bad weather forecast turns out right.

Rain in Monaco could shake up the qualifying and race order.

"There is a forecast of rain for Saturday afternoon," agreed Pirelli engineer Max Damiani, according to Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

Sauber slams Red Bull over cost-cutting
(GMM) Sauber has hit out at Red Bull over cost-cutting in formula one.

It is believed that every team in pitlane except Red Bull – and satellite Toro Rosso – is keen for the FIA to intervene, enshrining cost-cutting and policing in the official regulations in one form or another.

But Red Bull's Christian Horner claims to have not even read a recent letter to FIA president Jean Todt that was signed by ten of the twelve teams.

"In this sport, foresight is important whenever it is possible," Peter Sauber is quoted by Germany's Sport1.

"One should always think outside the box — or should I say outside the drinks can?" said the Swiss, in an obvious dig at energy drink maker Red Bull.

"In some cases, people don't care whether formula one is even here in ten years," the 68-year-old charged.

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber's chief executive and one third owner, agrees with her boss that the most financially powerful teams need to be responsible.

"Formula one is not just four teams," she insisted. "For us it is not just the core business, it is the only business — we are not here to sell another product."

Politics steered France return off track – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that politics have stalled France's return to the F1 calendar.

Until former president Nicolas Sarkozy lost the country's recent general election, France looked destined for a spot on the 2013 calendar, with Paul Ricard thereafter alternating an annual race date with Belgium.

But the new president Francois Hollande had warned that he would "review" the F1 project, his sports minister Valerie Fourneyron adding that the issue "deserves more attention than ten minutes".

"I think maybe the election that has taken place might have put that back a bit," admitted Bernie Ecclestone when asked about the French project.

"When that all settles down I'm sure we'll get back on track — literally," he told CNN in Monaco.

"I think you will have to wait and see if we see more. Only time will tell," added Ecclestone.

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