Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

  • Sergio Perez

    Perez rules out Ferrari switch in 2012

  • F1 warns shareholders about Ecclestone
  • Williams to thank rivals after garage fire
  • Senna 'must respond' to Maldonado's form – Williams
  • Schumacher's future a hot topic in Monaco
  • Kovalainen admits disappointment with Caterham progress
  • F1 ready to spin Monaco roulette wheel
  • Vergne wearing Indy 500 rookie Alesi's helmet
  • Force India no winner in 2012 roulette
  • Backer says no doubts about 2012 Austin GP
  • Student protests threaten 2012 Canada GP
  • Raikkonen asks Lotus for rally Finland permission
  • Ecclestone hits out at French GP organizers

Perez rules out Ferrari switch in 2012
(GMM) Sergio Perez has ruled out switching to Ferrari this season to replace Felipe Massa.

It is suggested the famous Italian team is growing increasingly impatient with struggling Brazilian Massa's poor form.

"I think all this hype about a possible switch is massively blown up by the media," Perez told F1's official website.

"Should that situation really come about I would reject it as I would not want to make a switch in the middle of a season."

Nonetheless, 22-year-old Perez is the obvious favorite, as the cream of Ferrari's driver development program and already powered by the Maranello team's engines at Sauber.

"I think that people should not mix up engines and drivers," he insisted.

The denials, however, are unlikely to dampen the rumors, with Massa under increasing pressure to perform — and some saying Monaco could be his last chance.

"I hope this weekend is where one can consider that my 2012 championship will begin," the Brazilian said on Wednesday.

"I have had a few difficult times in my career and maybe the start to this season has been the most difficult so far.

"I have had to deal with the technical side of the problem, but also it causes a mental side, as it is not easy to deal with this situation. But if you fix one, then it is easier to fix the other," added Massa in Monaco.

Perez tipped him to bounce back.

"He (Massa) is a strong driver and he has a great team behind him. Once he's bounced back all these stories will die at once," he said.

F1 warns shareholders about Ecclestone
(GMM) Formula one is formally warning potential shareholders that a key to the sport's health is 81-year-old Bernie Ecclestone.

Pre-marketing for F1's high profile Singapore floatation has begun, and a prospectus doing the rounds admitted the sport relies heavily on its diminutive chief executive.

The document, seen by the Financial Times, admitted Ecclestone is a suspect in the Gerhard Gribkowsky corruption scandal, and also the subject of civil proceedings relating to the sport's 2006 sale.

The Briton is also under investigation by Britain's tax authorities, the document admits.

"While we have a succession plan for Mr. Ecclestone … and contracted revenues which provide us stability in the near term, the loss of Mr. Ecclestone could disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operation," said the circular.

The document also admitted the threat of key teams breaking away to race in their own series, and the potential for a fundamental shift in how the sport is broadcast.

"We may consider changing our (television) model and exploiting (internet streaming rights) independently in the future," it said.

Yet another potential problem is that Mercedes is yet to sign up to the new Concorde Agreement, with anonymous insiders continuing to insist the possibility the German carmaker will pull out.

Team boss Ross Brawn said the governing FIA also needs to get on board.

"So I think we'll see in the next few months clearly where the FIA stand on all of this," he is quoted by Reuters.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, however, welcomed the forthcoming flotation, amid news he might receive $25m in F1 shares as the board member representing F1's most historic team.

"We'll talk about it in Monte Carlo," Montezemolo is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport when asked about the floatation.

"It would be an advantage for the teams — more stability and also more transparency."

Williams to thank rivals after garage fire
(GMM) Sir Frank Williams has vowed to visit every rival team this weekend in Monaco to thank them personally for their response to the garage fire two weeks ago in Spain.

The Oxfordshire based team's founder and boss revealed not only that every fire extinguisher in the Barcelona paddock was willingly discharged, but that the other team principals had stepped forward with offers to help Williams recover from the loss of nearly everything in the pits.

"The reaction was extraordinary," he told the Telegraph. "Overwhelming.

"My main job when I get to Monaco is to go around all the team principals and thank them, and try to pay them back for whatever they gave us."

Chief engineer Mark Gillan is quoted by Spain's El Pais newspaper as putting a figure on how much of the team's travelling equipment was destroyed in Spain — 90 per cent.

"That includes every metal component on Bruno (Senna)'s car through corrosion," he said.

Senna confirmed to El Mundo newspaper: "I think that from the car I raced in Barcelona the only thing that is the same now is the tub."

Williams is still missing some things, but Gillan insisted that the fire will not affect the team's Monaco grand prix.

"In fact, you can run an F1 car with one laptop if you have to. You don't want to, but we are fully operational," he insisted.

Senna 'must respond' to Maldonado's form – Williams
(GMM) Sir Frank Williams has urged Bruno Senna to step up.

Even before teammate Pastor Maldonado's breakthrough Barcelona win two weeks ago, speculation had begun to circulate that Senna needed to up his game in order to keep his race seat.

Williams is pushing the credentials of its young reserve driver Valtteri Bottas, a Finn who is managed by team shareholder Toto Wolff and already attracting sponsors.

"Well, of course, as a racing driver I want to get into the car as soon as possible," Bottas told The National newspaper in Monaco, "and next year I hope it is possible.

"It (the speculation) doesn't change anything for me."

Brazilian Senna is the man under pressure, as he already gives up his FW34 to Bottas on most grand prix Fridays.

So in the wake of Maldonado's win from pole in Barcelona, Williams said on Wednesday: "Now Bruno must respond.

"Maldo's win will give him a kick up the backside. Which he needs.

"We'll see."

Before hearing about his boss's remarks, Senna told reporters on Wednesday that the speculation about his seat was "typical F1 gossip".

"You hear that I am in danger, but people quickly forget that before the last race I was ahead of Pastor in the championship," he is quoted by Brazil's Globo.

"I've had good races but just because I have a bad weekend and Pastor wins, people say 'Oh, he's out'. The only way to stop it is to shut their mouths by getting good results.

"My time will come," he is quoted by Britain's Sun newspaper. "I have taken my time to learn and I can't expect to nail everything every race."

Schumacher's future a hot topic in Monaco
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's future is a hot topic in the Monte Carlo paddock.

A multiple winner in the Principality, the seven time world champion's comeback career has been far less glitzy, with some – even his boss Nick Fry – predicting he might return to retirement at the end of his 2012 contract.

Key ally, friend and former Ferrari colleague – and Mercedes team boss – Ross Brawn, however, backed Schumacher in the wake of Fry's remarks, insisting it is the Brackley based team that has "let him down".

And not everyone thinks Schumacher's time is up.

"Michael is in top shape physically and mentally, there's no reason for him to stop," former teammate and now British television pundit Johnny Herbert told Sport Bild.

"He's better now than in the first two years of his comeback."

German Schumacher, meanwhile, batted away the speculation about 2013 on Wednesday.

"So far we're not focusing on (that). It's more about what happens right now, so there's no news for you yet," said the 43-year-old in Monaco.

"Let's leave it at that."

Kovalainen admits disappointment with Caterham progress
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen has admitted he is disappointed with Caterham's 2012 season so far.

It is rumored that the Finn may now have raised his profile sufficiently, after disappointing early seasons with top teams Renault and McLaren, to be a candidate to leave backmarker Caterham and move up the grid in 2013.

The Finnish broadcaster MTV3 suggested Kovalainen, who has appointed the management giant IMG to do his negotiations, might even be in the running for Felipe Massa's Ferrari seat.

He admitted to Turun Sanomat newspaper that he had expected a step forward in 2012, after Caterham's early startup struggles as Lotus in 2010 and 2011.

"Definitely, I have been a little disappointed," said the 30-year-old. "The pace has not been what we had hoped for, and the latest updates did not bring the momentum we had expected.

"The biggest disappointment is that we have not reached the group (of teams) that is in front of us in the races. The situation is more or less the same as last season," Kovalainen noted.

But he is also quoted by MTV3: "Yes, I believe that the situation can turn around.

"We have made progress — not necessarily with the car, but as a team."

F1 ready to spin Monaco roulette wheel
(GMM) Fernando Alonso's special golden and casino-themed Monaco helmet features some very telling words — 'Bet on red'.

In the scarcely believable 2012 season so far, the Spaniard has managed to emerge from the first five races with the joint championship lead, despite some sections of the media still describing Ferrari's situation as a "crisis".

"Yes, we have a chance for the title but it's up to us," he said on Wednesday. "We still have to make the car faster.

"It's a strange season," Alonso acknowledged. "No one is significantly stronger than us, but no one is much worse either."

Alonso doesn't expect the roulette-spinning to continue forever, though.

"I cannot imagine we will arrive in November with the same situation; a different winner in each race," he is quoted in Monaco by Italy's Autosprint.

"Sooner or later, someone will make a difference. Who? You cannot know now, but you know that I always keep an eye on Hamilton.

"He can make a difference even without the best car."

Amazingly, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel have gone from utter recent dominance to almost anonymity in 2012, although the German does co-lead the championship with Alonso.

Even so, the turnaround is dramatic.

"I've made mistakes," Vettel told Bild newspaper, "but I think I have understood what I've done wrong.

"It's just not always easy to understand why the car is not as fast."

He predicts an unpredictable outcome this weekend.

"When it comes to a trend you would have to say a sixth winner in the sixth race from the sixth team," the reigning world champion grinned to German television Sky.

Asked where he'd place a ten euro bet for Monaco, he answered: "I'd put it on Timo (Glock) for the top ten."

Vergne wearing Indy 500 rookie Alesi's helmet
(GMM) Jean-Eric Vergne will race formula one veteran Jean Alesi's helmet design this weekend in Monaco.

It is Vergne's tribute to his French countryman as former Ferrari and Sauber driver Alesi, 47, this weekend becomes the youngest ever rookie in the Indy 500.

Vergne, 22, had planned to watch Alesi from Indianapolis' fabled stands, "but then came the news I was driving for Toro Rosso and of course that meant a clash with Monaco".

Alesi starts the Indy 500 from 33rd and last, with the vastly-underpowered Lotus engine.

Force India no winner in 2012 roulette
(GMM) As the roulette wheel spins in 2012, Nico Hulkenberg has admitted he finds himself without a chip on the board.

McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams have already won so far this season, whilst Lotus and Sauber have shown genuinely winning pace.

The three backmarkers aside, that leaves just Force India and Toro Rosso as perhaps the only teams without genuine chances of victory so far this year.

"According to our measurements, Williams and Sauber were the fastest cars in Barcelona. They must now be counted among the top teams," said Force India driver Hulkenberg.

It's a disappointing situation for the Silverstone based team, a distant eighth in the championship.

"We have definitely improved, especially in traction, but in the fast corners Sauber and Williams are better than us," Hulkenberg acknowledged to Auto Motor und Sport.

The German admitted Force India has a few tenths to find.

"We have no choice but to develop, because we are behind," said Hulkenberg. "It's important to find a good balance between improving the car and understanding it."

Force India's 2012 goal, fifth in the constructors', seems a long way away.

That place is currently occupied by Shanghai winner Mercedes, who are flanked by Malaysia and Spain winners respectively, Ferrari and Williams.

"It is still possible," Hulkenberg insisted, "although difficult, because the others are still going to be getting points."

Backer says no doubts about 2012 Austin GP
(GMM) The key backer of the scheduled 2012 US grand prix insists he remains committed to the Circuit of the Americas project.

Construction in Austin, Texas, has continued amid raging local media speculation, as lawsuits are pending and questions are constantly asked about the viability of the project commenced by the now offside promoter Tavo Hellmund.

With 84-year-old billionaire Red McCombs now reportedly in the driving seat, he insisted it is "without question" he will continue to push the project forwards.

"Never has been any question," McCombs is quoted by, after the authoritative Austin American Statesman newspaper had suggested he was on the verge of pulling out.

"I'm there for the full ticket," McCombs insisted, although he admitted the row with Hellmund is proving a speed-bump.

"I will say we do expect to have some resolution to those issues in a timely fashion, but in dealing with the courts, I don't know what a timely fashion is."

He told reporters the circuit is now 60 per cent complete ahead of the inaugural November 18 race date.

Student protests threaten 2012 Canada GP
(GMM) Angry students could threaten next month's Canadian grand prix.

Protests in Montreal, regarding planned university tuition fee increases, have been turning increasingly ugly and even violent, involving the throwing of glass bottles and hundreds of arrests.

According to the French language La Presse newspaper, at least one student association has specifically threatened to disrupt the F1 race, scheduled for 10 June on the nearby Il Notre Dame.

"I cannot deny that we are following this out of the corner of our eye and will continue to follow it in the coming days," admitted race promoter Francois Dumontier.

The report said students' chants at recent demonstrations included references to the grand prix.

At a recent meeting, one association of students approved a resolution to adopt "a weekend of disruption" aimed at "the cancellation" of the race, which represents "sexist, non-environmental and elitist" values.

"It is not clear that we will be targeted," Dumontier insisted, "but we are an international event and are ready with a safety plan ranging from dealing with simple mischief to a wider disruption.

"The grand prix is often targeted because we are a major event. We are not worried but we have our eyes open and will work with the public authorities," he added.

Raikkonen asks Lotus for rally Finland permission
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has revealed he would like to contest August's rally of Finland.

F1's 2007 world champion returned from world rallying to grand prix racing this year.

"Of course I wanted to do better. But I'm not finished. I want to go back, whether for my career or after I don't know," the 32-year-old told Motorsport News, according to the official WRC website.

Earlier, Raikkonen admitted he had sidelined his rallying career for now in order to concentrate on F1. Before the 2011 season, Lotus' (then Renault) regular driver Robert Kubica was seriously injured in a rally crash, and is still yet to return to the sport.

"I'd like to do rally Finland this season as it fits with the calendar but you'll have to ask the team if it fits in my contract," Raikkonen said.

Ecclestone hits out at French GP organizers
Bernie Ecclestone has hit out at the organizers of a planned French Grand Prix, with a deal still yet to be signed to put the event back on the F1 calendar.

A deal was reported to be close for a race at Paul Ricard after discussions had previously been held about an event at a range of locations around France, including Disneyland Paris and Magny-Cours.

The appointment of Francois Hollande as the new president in place of Nicolas Sarkozy has cast fresh doubt over a French F1 race but Ecclestone said the deal should already have been done and that organizers had had plenty of time to sign a contract to make the event happen.

"The French have had enough opportunity to make it happen and didn't," he told ESPNF1. "They promised all these things like the streets of Paris and Disney. It's very political. I don't know if would have been different if Sarkozy had been re-elected. I have no idea. Whilst he was in power they could have signed.

“They have had a contract and all they had to do is sign. They never reached an agreement with Ricard anyway but it would need investment to build up grandstands and the Paddock Club isn't big enough."

At the same time as discussions were taking place to put France back on the calendar, rumors had suggesting that the German GP at the Nurburging could be in doubt over a promoter issue, but the commercial rights holder said he was sure a new deal would be done.

"At the Nürburgring there was an internal problem with the promoter," he said. “Their contract has run out so we will renew it when they know who to renew it with. I am happy to do it."

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