Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Ross Brawn

    Brawn returns to paddock, praising Schu 'quality'

  • 'Banned for life' Maldonado lucky to be in Monaco
  • Finance police raid Monza
  • Kovalainen wants midfield push for Caterham – manager
  • Valencia slashes seats at loss-making F1 race
  • 'Cheap' F1 worth billions – Ecclestone
  • Rain in Monaco

Brawn returns to paddock, praising Schu 'quality'
(GMM) Ross Brawn should be firing on all cylinders as he returns to the pitwall in Monaco this weekend.

Mercedes' team principal sat out the recent Spanish grand prix due to illness, but a scarcity of extra information triggered speculation.

One rumor was that he is seriously ill, whilst another was that his absence may in fact be due to his German employer's high-stakes spat with Bernie Ecclestone.

The latter theory gained traction since Barcelona, with acting team boss Nick Fry taking a much higher than usual profile, including naming Paul di Resta as a possible 2013 successor for Michael Schumacher.

Explaining his absence, Brawn told Bild newspaper: "On the Tuesday before Barcelona I felt unwell so I went to the doctor and then stayed a night in hospital for some tests.

"When I got home, I decided on the advice of doctors to give myself a weekend off, to be sure that I am fit for Monaco," the Briton said.

Partly because of Brawn's deputy Fry's recent comments, and also due to his paltry points tally and his crash with Bruno Senna, rumors about Schumacher's future have intensified since Spain.

"A lot has been said and written," acknowledged Brawn, "but we should not forget that we – the team – have let him down in three of the fives races, not delivering the job we should have.

"We must do better," Brawn, who worked closely with Schumacher during the seven time world champion's ultra successful Ferrari era, added.

"We saw Michael's real quality again in the first race, so it's for that reason that I believe we will see him on the podium this year."

As for a possible contract extension for the 43-year-old, Brawn insisted: "When the time comes, we will sit down together and talk about the future.

"I'm sure it will become clear very quickly in what direction we will go."

'Banned for life' Maldonado lucky to be in Monaco
(GMM) A favorite for victory this weekend, Pastor Maldonado is reportedly lucky to be gearing up to race in the Principality at all.

Bild newspaper recalls that the Venezuelan, who defied his 'pay driver' critics by winning for Williams in Spain two weeks ago, was actually banned after an horror incident on the streets of Monte Carlo seven years ago.

Racing in the Renault World Series in 2005, the then 20-year-old ignored yellow flags before striking and severely injuring a marshal.

Organizers of the Monaco grand prix reacted by banning Maldonado from the street circuit for life.

Germany's Bild revealed that Maldonado's wealthy father intervened, promising to pay for the marshal's recovery and rehabilitation from a broken back.

That intervention saved Maldonado's future formula one career, as no team would hire a regular driver that cannot participate in the sport's most famous race.

Maldonado is therefore a favorite for victory this weekend, with his Williams now acknowledged as arguably the best in the entire field when it comes to slow-speed traction.

And in his four seasons of GP2 between 2007 and 2010, Maldonado finished on the podium each time, winning and achieving pole position twice. In 2006, he won in Formula Renault.

Last year, in qualifying for his first Monaco grand prix, he qualified his then struggling Williams in eighth place, comfortably ahead of Rubens Barrichello.

"He is very good at Monaco," agreed Barrichello.

In the 2011 race, Maldonado was fighting for fifth when he crashed with Lewis Hamilton.

"If the last sector in Barcelona is the marker, then the Williams will be unbeatable in Monte Carlo," Germany's Auto Motor und Sport quotes Dr Helmut Marko as saying.

The breakthrough success in Barcelona has piqued the interest of Maldonado's native Venezuela, having not had an F1 points scorer since the ignominious Johnny Cecotto in 1983.

"My country will be following every second of the next race," Maldonado is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

"I love street circuits, this one in particular. My style of driving fits perfectly with Monaco. I am ready to get another great result."

Finance police raid Monza
(GMM) There is trouble afoot at Monza, the scene of the famous and historic Italian grand prix.

On Tuesday morning, Italy's finance police the Guardia di Finanza entered the Autodromo Nazionale to investigate seven people involved with the operation of the circuit.

According to Il Giorno and La Repubblica, the Monza prosecutor suspects tax offenses, false invoicing and other discrepancies in relation to Sias SpA, the circuit operator, between 2007 and 2012.

Among the suspected offenses is the issuing of invoices for non-existent transactions in order to show a positive balance sheet for the running of some events.

The officers raided the Sias offices and also the home of the circuit director, Enrico Ferrari, and other high ranking officials.

Kovalainen wants midfield push for Caterham – manager
(GMM) Heikki Kovalainen is looking for Caterham to move into the midfield, according to his new management company.

Having handled his own career in the wake of Flavio Briatore's demise, Finn Kovalainen recently signed up with IMG, the sports and entertainment management giant.

The 30-year-old has rebuilt his reputation since 2010 in the wake of mixed tenures for top teams Renault and McLaren.

According to IMG Motorsport's head of clients Martin Anayi, Kovalainen is now regarded by formula one team bosses up and down pitlane as among the top best drivers.

"He is a great guy," Anayi is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat newspaper.

"Heikki's potential is obvious and he definitely wants to succeed."

There have been rumblings in the paddock that Kovalainen is disappointed that, despite being consistently the best of F1's new teams since 2010, Caterham is yet to break into the midfield.

"This is only the team's third season, so there are still some growing paints," IMG's Anayi acknowledged.

"Heikki has a strong desire to compete, and not just with his teammate Vitaly Petrov. The team's boss Tony Fernandes wants to get in with the middle group.

"This means that the team needs to regularly get into the Q2 stage of qualifying and in the race be aiming for the points," he insisted.

Valencia slashes seats at loss-making F1 race
(GMM) Valencia has once again reduced the capacity of its street circuit ahead of next month's European grand prix.

After a 112,771 spectator sellout for the inaugural event in 2008, organizers reduced the temporary seating capacity by 35,000 on lower demand the following year.

The capacity was shrunk again, to 65,000, for last year's race, and this year there will be only 45,000 places for spectators to sit amid Europe's economic crisis, according to El Pais newspaper.

It means Valencia's spectator capacity has more than halved since 2008.

We reported this year that although Barcelona is not convinced it should annually alternate Spain's F1 hosting rights, Valencia is insisting the arrangement go ahead starting next year, as suggested recently by Bernie Ecclestone.

Until then, only 13 grandstands have been erected for the June 24 race, a figure "that may increase depending on demand", an official said.

The report in El Pais explained: "The organizer’s goal is to adjust the mounting costs to reduce the losses of previous years, especially in view of the high fees charged by Bernie Ecclestone."

'Cheap' F1 worth billions – Ecclestone
(GMM) Formula one is worth about $8 or $9 billion, as the sport's owner CVC confirmed it has this week sold a 21 per cent stake to new investors.

News of the sale coincided with the launch of pre-marketing ahead of one of the biggest ever sports floatations, data by the financial experts Thomson Reuters shows.

"It's cheap compared to Facebook," chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told reporters on Tuesday, confirming that the Singapore IPO looks set to go ahead soon "with no dramas".

"All the things that have to happen have happened. It will be finished by the end of June," the 81-year-old is quoted by the Telegraph.

F1's new one-fifth owners are US managers Waddell and Reed, the powerful Blackrock and Norway's central bank Norges.

"It's a great way to start the IPO and lets investors know what they can expect," said Ecclestone.

The diminutive Briton said he is keeping his 5.3 per cent stake, and staying in charge. His former wife Slavica controls another 8.5pc, the news agency Bloomberg said.

"You might as well have asked Frank Sinatra who he would appoint to replace him," Ecclestone insisted.

CVC said in a statement that is remains F1's biggest and controlling shareholder.

Rain in Monaco
The weather could add even more unpredictability to the action this weekend as Formula 1 arrives in Monaco.

With five different winners in the first five rounds, it has been a thrilling start to the 2012 F1 season and with rain forecast for Monte-Carlo, it is sure to spice the action up even further.

Running during Thursday's practice sessions should be dry, with some cloud cover and temperatures reaching around 18c in the morning and 23c in the afternoon.

However, heavy showers are forecast for the weekend, and there is even the risk of thunder and lightning for qualifying.

Sunday also looks to be a wet day with temperatures around 20c for the race.

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