Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

Expect Schumacher and Rosberg back with Mercedes in 2013


  • Mercedes hints no plans to change drivers
  • Lotus 'most consistent' team in 2012 – Webber
  • Only Alonso to try Ferrari upgrade at Mugello
  • Barcelona determined to host GP in 2013
  • Billionaires line up to push Sauber on
  • Experienced teammate would be better – Vergne
  • Mugello eyes place on F1 race calendar
  • Setback for Ferrari as updates are rolled out New
  • Schumacher visits Pirelli at Mugello New

Mercedes hints no plans to change drivers
(GMM) Mercedes appears in no mind to change its driver lineup any time soon.

Breakthrough China GP winner Nico Rosberg admitted this week that he could imagine staying with the German marque for the rest of his F1 career.

"I see no reason why he shouldn't stay for a long time," agreed Norbert Haug, Stuttgart carmaker Mercedes' motor racing vice-president, in the pages of Germany's Sport Bild.

"We're embarking on the road to success together, so what could be better?"

Indeed, it is the future of Rosberg's teammate, the great Michael Schumacher, that is much more unclear.

The 43-year-old's contract runs out this year, but he is performing better than in 2010 and 2011 with the improved W03 car.

"I don't think he is going to go to another team," said Haug, indicating that if Schumacher does stay in F1 beyond 2012, it will be at the wheel of a Brackley-built car.

German Schumacher showed his passion is still strong recently in Bahrain, hitting out at the heavily-degrading Pirelli tires.

"I can understand his frustration," team boss Ross Brawn told the DPA news agency.

"He has been very strong this year and when we get everything right we will see the results."

Lotus 'most consistent' team in 2012 – Webber
(GMM) F1 is slowly adjusting to the sport's new reality.

Although still with a winning car, Red Bull's utter dominance is undoubtedly over.

Not just that, the Pirelli tire situation, and the equality of performance amongst teams, have thrown up as many as four or five teams that might realistically be in with a shout of the 2012 title.

"We have a very good car," Mark Webber said at the Mugello test this week, "but we have company, that's clear.

"We've got some teams that are performing pretty well and if we're not totally on our game we will be punished," the Australian is quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Early on, McLaren seemed to have the best overall package.

"I see no reason why he (Jenson Button) shouldn't be champion again," legendary British commentator Murray Walker told the Sun newspaper.

"Mind you, I don't see any reason why four or five others shouldn't be either!"

Webber has a different idea about the 2012 favorite, after Romain Grosjean was right at the top of the Mugello timesheet on dry Wednesday.

"If you look at all the races and the tests," the Red Bull driver is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, "then the Lotus is the most consistent car in the field."

Grosjean and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi posted identical fastest times on Wednesday, but the Japanese did his 1.21.603 with softer tires.

Mercedes' Ross Brawn, however, quantified Webber's use of the word 'consistent' to describe this year's pecking order.

"It has been an inconsistent first four races for every team," he insisted, according to DPA news agency.

He said the crucial challenge has been understanding the Pirelli tire.

"It's an exciting challenge because when you get it right as we did in China then obviously you can get some great results," said Brawn, "but it's adding another layer of challenge to the normal challenge we face.

"That will tend to even out after a period and the best cars or the best teams will show through because you will get it right more frequently."

Only Alonso to try Ferrari upgrade at Mugello
(GMM) As ever in the world of Ferrari, every move is analyzed, reanalyzed, and decoded.

It has not been lost on the Italian specialist media, therefore, that Felipe Massa only got to play with the essentially Bahrain-spec F2012 on his single day of Mugello testing this week.

On Thursday, for the Spaniard's second day of running, Fernando Alonso will have much of the significant Barcelona upgrade to sample.

"It's no tactic," Massa is quoted by Autosprint late on Wednesday, "the new pieces are just not ready. They arrive tonight.

"That's the program we have."

Struggling Brazilian Massa, therefore, had little to tell reporters about his experiences on Wednesday.

"I know the car well, the defects are the same," he smiled.

"We need a huge improvement, bearing in mind that in these tests the others will have found two or three tenths."

Massa said it is not realistic that Ferrari will have recovered the full gap when the new F2012 is rolled out in Barcelona next week.

"That would be too optimistic," he is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Massa is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Fernando will try some new things tomorrow (Thursday) but the bulk will arrive in Barcelona."

Alonso added: "All that matters is that we improve the package."

Barcelona determined to host GP in 2013
(GMM) Barcelona has opened the door to alternating its grand prix with F1's other Spanish host Valencia.

But the Circuit de Catalunya organizers, set to run the Spanish grand prix next weekend, are determined to appear on the 2013 calendar, vowing to put tickets on sale the day after Sunday's race.

"We will put the tickets (for 2013) on sale on 14 May," Vincenc Aguilera, the new circuit president, is quoted by El Mundo Deportivo.

According to EFE news agency, however, Aguilera said alternating every year with Valencia is a "reasonable" proposition, given the current economic situation.

"In a crisis, during a storm, decisions should be conservative," he said in Barcelona.

"We are getting all sides to reach an agreement," he revealed. "It will take two, four, six weeks."

Barcelona's existing contract, for a grand prix every year, runs through 2016.

Billionaires line up to push Sauber on
(GMM) Sauber has the swagger of a team of the future.

The Hinwil based team struggled for survival in the wake of owner BMW's shock withdrawal in late 2009.

"We've been through a quite awkward time," admitted Monisha Kaltenborn, the chief executive.

But with the Ferrari-powered C31, the Hinwil based team is back with a bang, pushing for victory in Malaysia and now counting on the billionaire backing of Sergio Perez's powerful Mexican sponsor Carlos Slim.

And yet another billionaire is in tow, following the tie-up with Roman Abramovich's English premier league club Chelsea FC.

Blick newspaper acknowledged, however, that it is unclear just how many millions the deal entails.

Nonetheless, Russian billionaire Abramovich appears interested, amid suggestions he will visit the Sauber garage in Monaco later this month.

At Mugello this week, the C31 is again performing well, Kamui Kobayashi sharing top honors on Wednesday with an identical time to that set by Lotus' Romain Grosjean.

Of all the upgrades seen so far this week, Sauber's are the most comprehensive, and even more will be trackside in Barcelona next weekend.

"We have ambitious dreams and goals," Kaltenborn is quoted as saying. "In this sport, if you don't have that, you don't have much."

Experienced teammate would be better – Vergne
(GMM) Jean-Eric Vergne has admitted his F1 debut would be easier if he was sharing the Toro Rosso garage with an experienced driver.

Instead, the French rookie made his grand prix debut in Australia alongside Daniel Ricciardo, the young Australian with only a handful of races for struggling HRT under his belt.

The Toro Rosso duel this year is one of F1's most interesting, given owner Red Bull's clean sweep of its 2011 lineup, and the expectation that either Vergne, 22, or Ricciardo could succeed Mark Webber at the senior team.

"Of course it would have been easier to come in with a teammate who has more experience, because you always learn from your teammate," Vergne is quoted by Le Presse Canadienne.

"But we (Vergne and Ricciardo) have a very good relationship," he insisted.

"We've known each other for a long time, we came through together in the development program, we drove together in Formula Renault for a year.

"So we've had good laughs, a great time and have even taken vacations together.

"He's a good guy and a great driver," said Vergne. "I think we're both progressing well."

Vergne said he is settling into the F1 rhythm, but still has to check himself when he is out on track.

"I tell myself that all the other drivers are just drivers as I am. I try to forget that these are guys that I have watched since I was 10.

"But there's no aliens. I tell myself that I have a steering wheel now just as they do, and I just need to go as fast as I possibly can," he said.

Setback for Ferrari as updates are rolled out
Ferrari has placed a number of key upgrades on its car for Thursday’s final day of testing in Mugello. However, Fernando Alonso now faces several hours in the pit lane as damage is repaired after an off-track excursion.

Following a fire in the pit lane for Sauber’s Sergio Perez, Alonso caused the first red flag of the day as he left the circuit at Turn 12. It remains to been seen as to whether the moment caused damage or the Spaniard went off because of a mechanical problem.

Having begun running shortly after the green light came on and topping the timesheets, the Ferrari sports modified turning vanes on its sidepods – aiding air flow from the front wing – plus Red Bull-like exhaust exits.

The Scuderia is now pushing to repair its car in order to maximize the remaining running time.

Schumacher visits Pirelli at Mugello
(GMM) Michael Schumacher paid a visit to the Pirelli motorhome at Mugello.

The seven time world champion was heavily critical of the Italian supplier's 2012 tires recently in Bahrain, but boss Paul Hembery had revealed that he had yet to get together to hear first-hand about Schumacher's gripe.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the Mercedes driver's meeting with Pirelli lasted half an hour.

"I can imagine what was talked about," Timo Glock grinned.

Hembery said: "Michael was with our technicians and Mercedes engineers, I do not know what was said."

Another Pirelli employee insisted: "Nothing special to report."

Hembery does, however, have some good news to break to Schumacher: "In 2013 our tires will be even softer."

As for the extreme degradation, "We are sticking with our philosophy of exciting races, until something else is asked of us", Hembery insisted.

Mark Webber admitted there is a fine line to walk between the wishes of the teams and drivers, and the interests of the spectators.

"We would all love to have quicker lap times and extremely consistent tires like we did in the old days," he is quoted by AAP news agency, "but that wasn't the most exciting thing for the racing.

"Trying to find somewhere in the middle is always tricky but, at the moment, we have a pretty good show for the crowd.

"Whether it's by design or not, it's turned out like that."

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