Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Bienz (Lead Auditor, Swiss TS)


  • Insiders expect F1 to axe Bahrain
  • Insider expects F1 to lose two races in 2012
  • Still some 'gentlemen' in F1 – Sauber
  • Vettel says McLaren 'the team to beat'
  • Lotus to keep F1 name until at least 2017
  • Bahrain boycott would breach teams' contracts – Ecclestone New
  • Sauber F1 Team's environment management system is awarded certification New
  • Renault reveals cause of Maldonado failure New

Insiders expect F1 to axe Bahrain
(GMM) Many F1 insiders are now expecting next weekend's Bahrain grand prix to be called off.

"We're not going to Bahrain, the decision will be announced soon," wrote Livio Oricchio, the correspondent for Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

In the wake of the latest reports about the ongoing political situation inside the island Kingdom, Oricchio said he expects the news about the race to be known "today or tomorrow".

He referred to the direct threat made by the protest organizing group February 14th Youth Coalition, who said it could not "ensure the safety" of the sport's travelling members.

A spokesman for the international group Human Rights Watch admitted it is worried.

"On the ground we see an increasing number of deaths, and serious injuries from tear gas and beatings," he is quoted as saying by the BBC.

And the latest fears have been intensified by the explosion of a bomb that injured seven policemen on Monday, and news that a jailed activist on hunger strike is now close to death.

An unnamed team boss admitted he is worried about his employees "and their families", but an advisor to Bahrain's interior ministry tried to play down those fears.

"People can be assured that if problems arise, then there will be a plan to deal with that as there would be with any public event in the world," former London police assistant commissioner John Yates told the Associated Press.

But even Bernie Ecclestone, who will be in China this weekend, could now be stepping back from the controversy.

"If the teams don't want to go, then we cannot make them," the F1 chief executive told the Times.

All the FIA has said is that it is "monitoring" the situation, with it believed that contingency plans are in place so that F1 can cope with a cancellation decision made as late as this Saturday or Sunday.

The Bahrainis, meanwhile, are confident.

"We anticipate formula one will continue and hope it will be a success," said government spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa.

The Bahrain circuit's Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa added: "The race is going ahead — there is no doubt about that.

"There are several reports doing the rounds that are saying a lot of things which are baseless," he told the Gulf Daily News.

"We are ready and there is a plan in place to ensure the safety of the teams, officials and fans."

Insider expects F1 to lose two races in 2012
(GMM) A respected F1 correspondent is expecting F1's 2012 calendar to shrink to eighteen races this year.

Livio Oricchio, who writes for Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo, thinks the sport is now on the verge of cancelling next weekend's visit to Bahrain.

And he also thinks November's US grand prix, scheduled to take place at the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, is in doubt.

"The construction has fallen way behind," said Oricchio, "and there are serious problems between the promoter and the Texas government.

"Each side is looking to the other on the obligation to pay the fee, estimated at $18 million, to FOM (Formula One Management).

"So the championship that should have 20 races will most likely have only 18," he concluded.

At least publicly, however, the Circuit of the Americas is continuing to take shape.

This Thursday, a private ceremony is scheduled to take place as circuit contractor Austin Commercial celebrates the milestone of completing the full height of the main three-storey pit building.

The Austin Business Journal reports that "several business and civic leaders are scheduled to attend".

Still some 'gentlemen' in F1 – Sauber
(GMM) There are still some "gentlemen" in F1, team boss and owner Peter Sauber insists.

Amid the recent F-duct debate, it was suggested that Mercedes' Ross Brawn had broken a teams' 'gentlemen's agreement' that the technology should not be pursued.

"I think you need gentlemen in formula one for this" Sport Bild reporter Ralf Bach jibed sarcastically during a news conference recently.

But Sauber, arguably one of the few gentlemen in the paddock, told Sonntagsblick that he still has some peers.

Asked if he was privately congratulated after Sergio Perez's second place in Malaysia recently, the Swiss said: "Martin Whitmarsh, of McLaren, offered me a very nice congratulation.

"Franz Tost (Toro Rosso) wrote me a lovely text. And then Domenicali and the people at Ferrari; we have a very friendly relationship," added Sauber.

As for whether there are many other gentlemen in F1, he insisted: "In this business, you don't really ask this question.

"I didn't know Colin Chapman. Ken Tyrrell was someone who appealed to me greatly, but he didn't take us (Sauber) seriously. It was the same with Frank Williams."

Indeed, in the paddock, skepticism and cynicism are more widespread, which explains why Sauber's 2012 car – although fast throughout winter testing – was not regarded as a serious threat until mere days ago.

"We knew our car was good after the tests in Jerez and Barcelona. But the others just thought that we were running light, which is common when a team from the midfield shows something," said Sauber.

Also amusing, according to Peter Sauber, is the story of Sergio Perez.

"A year ago it was said he just paid for his cockpit. So it makes me chuckle now when I see them say he is going to Ferrari," he smiled.

Vettel says McLaren 'the team to beat'
(GMM) McLaren remains "the team to beat" despite the topsy-turvy outcome of the recent Malaysian grand prix.

That is the claim of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, having slumped to sixth in the drivers' standings after a dire weekend in Malaysia.

The formerly-dominant Red Bull driver now lags a Ferrari and even a Sauber, after Fernando Alonso and the unlikely Sergio Perez proved the cream of the slippery Sepang circuit.

Vettel, however, is still thinking silver.

Asked by the French-language RMC Sport to name the 'best team' of the moment, the German answered: "There are several.

"But McLaren seems very strong right now. They are the team to beat," said Vettel.

The trophy enthusiast received a small memento on the Melbourne podium last month, but a more impressive prize was the prestigious Grand Prix de l'Academie des Sports that he collected from FIA president Jean Todt recently in Paris.

"That was my first trophy (of 2012)," he laughed, "but I want much more than that!

"It's a long championship," Vettel argued. "We did quite a good job in Australia, and Malaysia was chaotic with the weather.

"We have a good car and the objective is to fight for the title."

Lotus to keep F1 name until at least 2017
(GMM) F1's Enstone based team will keep the 'Lotus' name until at least 2017.

It emerged late last week that the sponsorship agreement between the team formerly known as Renault, and the Proton-owned carmaker Group Lotus, has ended.

But the team will at least keep its new chassis name for the foreseeable future, the French sports daily L'Equipe reveals.

"We are pleased to keep the name," said team owner Gerard Lopez, "because it's a great brand for F1."

Group Lotus confirmed: "The F1 team uses the strength of the Lotus name to promote themselves, and in return Group Lotus benefits from F1 exposure and the ambassadorship of its drivers."

The carmaker confirmed that the "financial arrangement" between Group Lotus and the F1 team has ended.

L'Equipe said the Genii-owned team is currently in talks with a major North American company about becoming the new title sponsor.

Bahrain boycott would breach teams' contracts – Ecclestone
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has admitted F1 teams will breach their contracts if they do not race in Bahrain next weekend.

Earlier, as the controversy surrounding the sport's continued plans to travel to the troubled island Kingdom deepens, an unnamed team boss admitted his peers would prefer if the event was called off.

The Times newspaper then quoted F1 chief executive Ecclestone as saying that "If the teams don't want to go, then we cannot make them".

"We've no way we can force people to go there," he also told the PA Sport news agency on Tuesday.

But in actual fact, teams are contractually bound to race at each event on the F1 calendar, with breaches punishable by exclusion from the sport.

"We can't say 'you've got to go' – although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn't go – but it doesn't help," the 81-year-old clarified.

"Commercially they have to go, but whether they decide to or not is up to them," said Ecclestone.

"I've had no one say anything other than 'we're going to be racing in Bahrain'."

He said the local race organizers, and the national sanctioning body, are the ones that could cancel the race.

F1's governing body, meanwhile, is the FIA.

"I've spoken to (FIA president) Mr. (Jean) Todt," Ecclestone revealed, "we keep in close contact, and he's going out there (to China), so we'll have a chat then, and we always meet with the teams."

It also emerged on Tuesday that Ecclestone has phoned Dr Ala'a Shehabi, a prominent Bahraini journalist and activist.

She revealed that Ecclestone wants Bahrain's government opposition to "have a press conference" at the grand prix "in which opposition can get their message across".

Shehabi said Ecclestone is "very concerned" about the situation in Bahrain, including the fate of human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who amid his hunger strike in jail is said to be close to death.

Sauber F1 Team's environment management system is awarded certification
The Sauber F1 Team takes protecting the environment extremely seriously. On 3rd April 2012 the Sauber Group’s environment management system was awarded ISO 14001 certification. The certificate was presented today at the company’s headquarters in Hinwil. ISO 14001 is the most widely established standard in this area worldwide, and certification attests that the team meets all the stated requirements.

The team began the development of their environment management system a little over a year ago with a comprehensive risk analysis and assessment. A set of organizational, technical and operational rules intended to ensure sustainable environmental protection was then put together with the participation of all employees.

“We are very pleased that our environment management system has been awarded certification. It confirms the high priority we attach to this issue," explains CEO Monisha Kaltenborn.

Sauber’s environment policy sets out the following principles and guidelines governing its commitment to environmental protection:

  • Make the environment a management focus.
  • Involve all employees in the process and ensure they have the necessary training.
  • Reduce energy consumption and use renewable energy sources in place of fossil fuels.
  • Reduce material consumption and ensure consistent recycling of waste materials.
  • Use third-party projects to transfer knowledge into ecological mobility concepts.
  • Incorporate suppliers and customers into the company’s environmental activities.
  • Maximize transparency towards employees, authorities and partners (inventory, targets, evaluation).

As well as the development and certification of the environment management system, the implementation of the company’s environment policy has also prepared the ground for other projects, such as the construction and activation of a “solar park" at Sauber headquarters in Hinwil, in co-operation with its partner Oerlikon. Generation of solar energy is scheduled to begin as early as this summer.

The following targets have also been set for 2012:

  • Reduce and neutralize/offset all the greenhouse gases produced by the company
  • Significantly reduce electricity consumption.
  • Improve freight-related environmental performance. Part of the team’s circuit infrastructure is now transported by sea (rather than air).

“At the end of 2010 we adopted, for the first time, a systematic approach to environmental protection by drawing up an environment policy," continues Monisha Kaltenborn. It is clear to see that the burden on our environment has become a key challenge for our society. By implementing our environment policy we are aiming to face up to this challenge and fulfill our ecological responsibility."

Sauber can look back on a long tradition of protecting the environment. For 20 years now the team has been using district heating from a nearby incineration plant to heat its main building and, since 2004, the wind tunnel as well. Around 50 per cent of the electricity used by the team is provided by renewable resources (hydro-electric power).

As Kaltenborn explains: “While individual measures such as the use of district heating, the solar park project and the partial switch to sea freight play a significant and immediately obvious role, a combination of numerous other smaller adjustments also allows us to make notable advances. Involving everybody at the company in this process has been important – and we have enjoyed the fruits of that approach."

Renault reveals cause of Maldonado failure
Renault has revealed that the engine failure that cost Pastor Maldonado a points finish at Sepang was caused by a piston failure, with safeguards being put in place to try and avoid a repeat.

Maldonado missed out on a top ten finish for the second successive race when his engine let go in the closing stages of the Malaysian race, adding to his earlier retirement on the final lap in Australia where he crashed out while chasing Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.

Having examined the engine, Renault has now explained the failure which it hopes won't be repeated later in the season.

“We used the intervening time between Malaysia and China to thoroughly investigate the engine failure we had on Pastor's car in Malaysia and quickly identified it as a piston failure," head of Renault Sport F1 Track Operations Remi Taffin said. “As a result we are looking to put in place safeguards to prevent it happening again to Williams or our other clients."

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