Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Sochi track layout

    Russia has GP preparations 'on back burner' – source

  • Alguersuari says 2013 return '100 per cent' sure
  • Pirelli ready to supply qualifying tires – Tronchetti
  • Vettel defends Schumacher after Senna crash
  • New winner Maldonado looks for Monaco repeat
  • FIA had to disqualify Hamilton in Spain – Whiting
  • Sponsor seeks millions from F1 driver Doornbos
  • Final Williams member returns to UK

Russia has GP preparations 'on back burner' – source
(GMM) Preparations for the inaugural Russian grand prix in 2014 appear to have hit a roadblock.

We reported last weekend that rumors were circulating in the Barcelona paddock that the Sochi race now appears "doomed".

The state owned Moscow news agency Ria Novosti now reports that political issues have created "serious delays" in the race's preparations, according to an adviser with the Russian Automobile Federation.

The official, Igor Yermilin, insisted that the project is not doomed, but he said very few efforts have taken place following the bureaucratic reshuffling of the local Krasnodar region.

He said some officials of the Omega company, responsible for the F1 circuit project, have lost their jobs.

"In the Krasnodar region there has been have been quite serious changes in the leadership," Yermilin said, "including people from Omega who signed the contract on holding the Russian grand prix".

The coastal city Sochi is also scheduled to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"The main thing at the moment is the Olympics — the grand prix is on the back burner," said Yermilin.

Alguersuari says 2013 return '100 per cent' sure
(GMM) Jaime Alguersuari has told Spanish publications he is "absolute certain" he will be on the 2013 grid.

"This is the best year of my life," he told Mundo Deportivo, referring to 2012, the year after his young F1 career stalled when he was dropped by backer Red Bull.

"I'm only 22," said Spaniard Alguersuari, who is now Pirelli's main test driver and a co-commentator for British radio. "I'm in the prime of my life.

"It is increasingly clear that what happened with Toro Rosso was not a sporting decision. It was an internal decision and I don't want to go deeper."

He sounded confident about the future.

"It is 100 per cent that I will return in 2013. After being with Pirelli I will have very important knowledge. I knew that this transitionary step was necessary and I'm very happy," said Alguersuari.

"If I had gone (to be test driver) with a team, with all due respect, I'd have no options now.

"I am developing a product (Pirelli) that nobody understands but that is vital for formula one — to know the tires and to understand them. I'm in the right place," he is quoted by La Vanguardia newspaper.

"I chose to be with Pirelli because I knew it would be the most important (element) in formula one.

"I know where I am and I know where I'll be next year," he insisted.

Pirelli ready to supply qualifying tires – Tronchetti
(GMM) Pirelli stands ready to supply special 'qualifying tires' to formula one teams next year.

With the emphasis of the sport's spectacle now relying on the complex and heavily degrading control tires, it was the qualifying session that suffered last weekend in Barcelona.

Arguably to the detriment of Saturday's spectacle, teams took an exceedingly strategic view of the fight for pole position, with some drivers sitting out the decisive 'Q3' runout altogether.

One solution, according to Pirelli's chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera, is the return of 'qualifying tires'.

The proposal has been made following recent criticism, notably by seven time world champion Michael Schumacher, of Pirelli's 2012 product.

Tronchetti defended his marque's approach.

"What we have is many competitive cars, which is what the teams wanted — opportunity for everyone who is able to win," he told Italian radio Rai GR Parlamento.

"So it's fine if someone complains. We are available to the teams. We are ready to make qualifying tires tomorrow.

"But they are choices that are not ours."

Vettel defends Schumacher after Senna crash
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel has defended his former mentor Michael Schumacher.

The seven time world champion has been roundly criticized since last Sunday's Spanish grand prix, after crashing into Williams' Bruno Senna at the end of the Barcelona straight.

He called the Brazilian driver an "idiot" on the radio and later defended the outburst, but the FIA did not agree, imposing a five-place qualifying penalty for Monte Carlo for causing a collision.

"For us, that maneuver of Michael's cost us a lot," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Austrian Servus TV.

He said the debris from the crash not only damaged Vettel's front wing, but led to the reigning world champion having to serve a drive-through penalty due to activating his DRS wing in the yellow-flag zone.

German Vettel, however, defended Schumacher.

"In those situations we don't have much time of course," he said, "and you can get very great speed differences (between the cars) on the straights.

"I think it should be classified simply in the category of racing accidents. Unfortunately it happens," said the reigning world champion.

"Of course you can always say what is what afterwards," added Vettel, "just as you can say that it always takes two to tango."

Mercedes' Norbert Haug was less eager to comment, although he did tell Germany's Sport1 that the team "accepts the verdict of the race stewards".

New winner Maldonado looks for Monaco repeat
(GMM) The oddest element of the 2012 season so far is that the unlikeliest of candidates could now be genuine title contenders.

Before the Spanish grand prix weekend, Pastor Maldonado was a commonly derided 'pay driver' with 500-1 odds of winning in Barcelona, and just a single point to his name in 2011.

Now, he is F1's newest pole-getter and race victor, and genuinely regarded as a potential contender for the world championship.

And Dr Helmut Marko, the reigning world champion Red Bull's motor racing manager, said: "If the Williams really has traction that good, then Maldonado will run rings around everyone in Monte Carlo," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

Maldonado travelled straight from Spain to Caracas, where he was being quizzed by the local media as to his chances of a back-to-back victory repeat in Monaco next weekend.

"I think it's going to be a great opportunity for us to be strong again," he said.

FIA had to disqualify Hamilton in Spain – Whiting
(GMM) Charlie Whiting has defended the decision in Spain to move Lewis Hamilton from pole to the very rear of the grid.

Although McLaren was widely criticized for making a grave error, the stewards' penalty was at the same time described by the world's press as "draconian".

"Quite frankly I did not expect the penalty that we received," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

Indeed, given that McLaren's fuel indiscretion occurred only in the decisive Q3, why not simply delete Hamilton's Q3 lap times, thereby putting the Briton mid-grid for the race?

"We had no room to move," Whiting, the FIA's race director, responded to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport when told that Hamilton's penalty seemed too severe.

"If there is a violation, it applies to the whole session, not just part of it," he insisted. "Qualifying begins with Q1."

Whiting explained that if Hamilton had only lost his Q3 time, a precedent would have been set tempting teams to risk not being checked for the mandatory 1 liter fuel sample in post-qualifying scrutineering.

Auto Motor und Sport said only one or two fuel samples are actually checked after qualifying at grands prix.

Competitors could, therefore, genuinely "run the risk" of using less fuel than is allowed in Q3, if the penalty for being caught is relatively light, Whiting argued.

He recalled last year's German grand prix, when Sebastien Buemi was sent to the back of the grid because his fuel sample showed irregularities.

As it was not possible to check if the illegal fuel had also been used in Q1 and Q2, the Toro Rosso driver had to be disqualified from qualifying, Whiting argued.

Sponsor seeks millions from F1 driver Doornbos
(GMM) Robert Doornbos, the former Minardi and Red Bull driver, is being pursued for millions by a former sponsor.

The disgruntled backer, Harry Muermans, is demanding the Dutchman pay back a whopping EUR 11 million from their partnership between 2005 and 2008, claiming the money was in fact not sponsorship, but loans.

Doornbos, now 30, made his debut for Minardi in 2005, and he also contested a few races for Red Bull Racing at the end of the following season.

According to the Dagblad de Limburger newspaper, Muermans has won the first round of the court battle, a judge ruling that money paid to Doornbos' company – headed by his sister – was in fact in the form of loans.

Muermans is now seeking many more millions from Doornbos himself.

The driver, who reportedly denies Muerman's claims, did not comment.

Final Williams member returns to UK
All members of the Williams team are now safely back at home in the United Kingdom. Following the frightening garage fire after the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday evening, several had remained under observation in local hospitals.

On Monday night it was confirmed by the team that all staff bar one were still in Spain, but that the remaining mechanic would be dispatched within 48 hours. The member in question has now been able to return to England.

“There were a number of people who attended the circuit medical centre, mostly as the result of smoke inhalation," explains Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer for Williams. “One team member remains in hospital having suffered burns, but he is in a stable condition and in good spirits and has returned to England today for further medical care."

Although the Circuit de Catalunya has confirmed to that the garage has already been returned to its normal state, Williams continues to investigate the cause of the blaze with Spanish authorities and Formula 1 governing body the FIA. The chaotic situation began when petrol canisters exploded at the back of the room.

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