Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Bernie Ecclestone

    Ecclestone says F1 budget cap 'could happen'

  • Ecclestone defiant amid latest Bahrain reports
  • F1 will adjust to 'ugliest' 2012 cars – Lauda
  • Hamilton vows to focus more on F1 in 2012
  • Schumacher insists 'still good enough' for F1
  • Vettel to push for rare title hat-trick
  • No personal sponsors for champion Vettel
  • Raikkonen broke wrist in Christmas crash
  • Sauber flattered as Red Bull copies 2012 exhaust
  • Mercedes 'even faster than Red Bull' – reports
  • Red Bull not yet a great team – de la Rosa
  • Marko not worried about new cheat rumors
  • Optimistic Grosjean eyes third for Lotus
  • Salo plays down Ferrari test in 2011 car
  • No Spanish GP share deal in place yet
  • HRT was 'risky team' for Senna – mother
  • De Villota admits not Marussia reserve
  • Briatore blasts F1 'show'
  • Enzo Ferrari museum opens in Modena
  • Ferrari not writing off original F2012 exhaust design yet

Ecclestone says F1 budget cap 'could happen'
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has fired a warning shot as his negotiations ramp up with formula one teams over the next Concorde Agreement.

The team bosses are pushing for more of the sport's lucrative revenue, but F1 chief executive Ecclestone said they already spend too much due to wearing rose-tinted glasses.

His advice: "Change the color of your glasses and tighten your belts," the 81-year-old told F1's official website. "Stop spending more than you need to."

The most recent political war between F1's authorities and the teams – in 2009 – was fierce, when former FIA president Max Mosley pushed hard for a budget cap.

Ecclestone said: "You could (still) install a mandatory budget for all teams – on the basis of the smaller teams – but they (the big teams) don't like it and fiercely fight against it.

"I would welcome it," he insisted. "Yes, I think it could happen."

Ecclestone defiant amid latest Bahrain reports
(GMM) Bahrain is in the headlines yet again, ensuring formula one's return to the troubled island kingdom in just over a month remains controversial.

Wire news reports and amateur video footage claim police clashed violently with a crowd following the funeral of a man who died during recent street protests.

Asked about Bahrain in a new interview with F1's official website, chief executive Bernie Ecclestone answered: "What about it?

"The (race) organizers say that they have everything under control and for now I think we should believe them."

F1 will adjust to 'ugliest' 2012 cars – Lauda
(GMM) Niki Lauda thinks F1 will soon adjust to the unattractive look of this year's cars.

Every 2012 car, except the Marussia and the McLaren, features an odd 'step' between the front of the monocoque and the mandatory new lower height of the nose.

The FIA's Charlie Whiting defended the move on safety grounds, conceding however that "they do all look like ducks".

Triple world champion Lauda said: "I think that, this year, we have the ugliest cars we've ever had.

"The look, simply, is a disaster. Why must I look at something ugly, when it could be different?" he complained.

"But, ultimately, it's like my face — if you see me almost every Saturday and Sunday, as the RTL (television) viewers do, then you get used to it," he told the German-language Speed Week.

"At some point you don't even notice that I'm missing an ear. So it's just the same with these noses — after three races, it will hardly be talked about anymore.

"But, basically, we should try to have formula one cars looking more like Angelina Jolie than ugly ducks," added Lauda.

Hamilton vows to focus more on F1 in 2012
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has promised to stop partying and focus more on performing, the 2008 world champion has told mainstream British newspapers.

The McLaren driver had a tumultuous 2011 season on and off the track, but the 27-year-old has vowed to bounce back now.

"Last year quite a lot of times I went out and enjoyed myself thinking that these things don't affect you but in actual fact they do, they have a knock-on effect," he said.

It resulted in him being beaten by his teammate Jenson Button, even though F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone tips Hamilton to bounce back in 2012 because "he's faster (than Button)".

"He (Button) didn't win the world championship — if he did, it would have been even worse," said Hamilton.

"Now I'm looking forwards. This year is what matters. Last year has absolutely no bearing on me, I don't care about last year. It's what's ahead of me which will define me," he added.

Schumacher insists 'still good enough' for F1
(GMM) Michael Schumacher insists he is still good enough to be competing against drivers decades younger than him.

The 43-year-old is yet to stand on a single podium since returning from retirement two years ago, intensifying speculation Mercedes might need to move on for 2013.

But ahead of the 2012 season opener, the seven time world champion told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper: "Whether I can still compare myself with my 30-year-old self, I don't know.

"What I do know is that I am still good enough to be here," the famous German insisted.

His team boss Ross Brawn, who worked with Schumacher throughout the ultra-successful Ferrari period, conceded that the record winner of 91 grands prix is now missing a few tenths.

How is he going to claw them back?

"Maybe he doesn't," Brawn told the Guardian newspaper. "Maybe he lives with it and uses his experience and knowledge to compensate."

Vettel to push for rare title hat-trick
(GMM) If Sebastian Vettel hangs on to the drivers' world championship trophy at the end of 2012, he will be only the third driver in the sport's history with a title hat-trick.

Eight drivers have won three or more championships in total, but only Michael Schumacher (2000-2004) and Juan Manuel Fangio (1954-1957) won more than two on the trot.

Names including Prost, Lauda, Senna and Alonso all failed.

"My guess is that he (Vettel) really can do it again," Bernie Ecclestone told F1's official website. "What points against it? I think anything else would be the surprise."

So what does the 24-year-old German think about the chances of a treble?

"That only two or three had done it before, I was not aware," he is quoted by SID news agency.

"All good things come in threes. Of course it would be great, but there's a long way to go and we stay patient and keep the feet on the floor."

The 2012 field, however, appears closer than in 2011, and the Red Bull perhaps not as dominant.

"To say that everything is perfect would be a lie, because we have some problems to solve," admitted Vettel ahead of the 2012 season opener in Australia.

"It will only be possible to make a true assessment of our performance and the performance of the others this weekend."

No personal sponsors for champion Vettel
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel enters the 2012 season with a clean sheet when it comes to personal sponsorship.

The German recently filmed a television commercial for the dandruff shampoo 'Head and Shoulders', but Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper reports that he has not extended that deal.

"It is important to me that a brand is perfect for me. It is not my goal simply to make as much money as I can," said the Red Bull driver.

Jenson Button filmed a similar shampoo commercial recently, and was widely ridiculed for his performance.

"Of course, I've had a little bit of mickey-taking from doing the advert," Vettel admitted to the Sun.

"At least I never took my shirt off – I think Jenson did – but you have to be able to poke fun at yourself."

Raikkonen broke wrist in Christmas crash
(GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has revealed he actually broke his wrist just before Christmas.

The media made much of the returning Lotus driver's apparently hurt arm, but he insisted at the time it was "the smallest and slowest crash I've ever had".

But during his appearance on the popular British motoring program Top Gear last week, 32-year-old Raikkonen confessed to having been more seriously injured.

He showed anchor Jeremy Clarkson a big scar on his left wrist, admitting: "I hurt it a little bit, but I had a good doctor to fix it."

"That's a big scar!" Clarkson exclaimed. "Did you break it (your arm)?" he enquired.

Raikkonen smiled: "A little bit."

Sauber flattered as Red Bull copies 2012 exhaust
(GMM) Peter Sauber has admitted his Swiss team is flattered after Red Bull apparently copied the C31's exhaust layout ahead of the 2012 season.

Red Bull ran at the initial Jerez and Barcelona tests – and then the two opening days of the final Barcelona test – with its own solution in the wake of the FIA's blown exhaust clampdown.

"We had a nice surprise on the penultimate day (of winter testing)," Sauber team boss Peter Sauber wrote in his column for Sonntagsblick newspaper.

"Red Bull announced their plans to use a heavily modified car, as it will race in Melbourne.

"Compared to their first version it had a completely different rear, which differs significantly from most cars — but not ours.

"The Red Bull and our C31 have a very similar concept, concerning the management of the airflow at the rear.

"For our engineers, it was an extra confirmation that they have chosen the right development direction. They are convinced that this concept has the potential for further development," added Sauber.

Mercedes 'even faster than Red Bull' – reports
(GMM) Mercedes could be set to surprise the entire F1 world by setting the pace in 2012.

That is the claim of the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, having found that the W03 had the strongest 'long run' pace during recent pre-season tests.

The major daily Bild agrees, crowning the Ross Brawn-led team the "Bluff champion!" of the winter.

"The analysis of recent testing in Barcelona shows that Mercedes are even faster than Red Bull," the report exclaimed.

Brawn is quoted by Brazil's Globo: "You always believe it. You want a winning car, and I have not seen anything that tells me that we don't have (now)."

Perhaps even more sensationally, Sauber ranked second in the Auto Motor und Sport analysis of long runs, although last year the Swiss team looked similarly fast in testing.

Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus come next, followed by the struggling Ferrari.

Peter Sauber wrote in Blick newspaper: "It has never been as difficult as it is this year to get a picture of where everybody stands.

"Why? Because the field has never been so close together."

Red Bull not yet a great team – de la Rosa
(GMM) Red Bull is not yet one of F1's 'big two' teams, according to Pedro de la Rosa.

The HRT driver admits his own Spanish employer is the "worst" in the field at present, but at the other end of the grid, he insists the "best" – Red Bull – is not yet one of the greatest.

"Formula one is in that respect very similar to the Spanish football league," he is quoted by Marca sports daily.

"There are two big clubs, Madrid and Barcelona, and (in F1) I would say they are Ferrari and McLaren.

"Red Bull, not yet. They are one of those teams that can win the cup, but I would dare to predict that in 20 years the big two will still be the big two," added de la Rosa.

Until now, de la Rosa was McLaren's highly-respected reserve driver, with a new long-term contract.

"I thought (boss) Martin (Whitmarsh) was going to shout at me, so I found it difficult to tell him and he cut me short, saying 'Pedro, what do you mean?'

"I told him I wanted to go to HRT, that I wanted to race again — there was a long silence and he said 'You must be mad, but I love that my reserve driver is that way — it means we had the right guy'."

De la Rosa, 41, will drive the 2012 car for the first time on Friday, in Melbourne. His teammate Narain Karthikeyan managed a few laps during a filming shakedown.

"When he got out, I asked him what it was like and he looked at me with his eyes sparkling and said 'It is better than last year'," beamed de la Rosa.

Marko not worried about new cheat rumors
(GMM) Dr Helmut Marko has dismissed suggestions Red Bull is entering the 2012 season with a question mark over the legality of its new car.

With two days of pre-season testing remaining, the reigning world champions took a heavily revised car to Barcelona recently and guarded the rear exhaust solution intensely, with covers and – oddly – even umbrellas.

Initial analysis indicated it might be close to what the FIA will allow, following the strict clampdown on exhaust diffuser blowing.

Asked by the Kleine Zeitung newspaper if the FIA has completely banned the aerodynamic use of exhaust gases, Marko replied: "No.

"The regulations stipulate the position of the exhaust, within a certain parameter."

As for the 'cheating' rumors, the team advisor insists: "It bounces off us completely. The way we see it, there are no grey areas and we are well within all the regulations."

Meanwhile, FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting has admitted it is "quite likely" he will have to "revisit" the exhaust regulations for 2013.

Optimistic Grosjean eyes third for Lotus
(GMM) Fourth in the 2012 championship is a "realistic" target for Lotus.

That is the claim of reigning GP2 champion Romain Grosjean, amid suggestions his new mount – the black and gold E20 – is among the very best cars on this year's grid.

"If I am really positive, we can say we are the third force, with Mercedes," he is quoted by RMC.

"If I am more realistic, we can say that we will fight for fourth place with Ferrari, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso," added the Frenchman.

Former F1 driver Mika Salo said the development race will be Lotus' true test.

"They are a contender at least early in the season," the Finn told the MTV3 broadcaster. "But the biggest teams develop at such a fast pace."

Salo plays down Ferrari test in 2011 car
(GMM) Mika Salo has now played down his two-day test for Ferrari this weekend.

It emerged last week that the 45-year-old Finn, who in 1999 replaced Ferrari's injured Michael Schumacher, would test the famous Maranello team's single seater at the Suzuka circuit.

A spokesman insisted Salo is simply appearing as a guest during the Ferrari Racing Days event, but media speculation hinted he is playing a more crucial role amid the famous team's struggle to improve its new F2012.

"The news media got a bit out of hand," Salo told Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

"It's only a two day test for me in last year's car. If you think about it rationally, there is no benefit for the F1 team.

"I am 45 years old and haven't driven a single meter (in a F1 car) for ten years — I could not give any useable feedback," he insisted.

No Spanish GP share deal in place yet
(GMM) A deal to see Barcelona and Valencia alternate a single annual Spanish grand prix is not quite across the finish line.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone announced last week that a deal has been struck in principle between the sport's two current Spanish hosts.

But Vicenc Aguilera, the Circuit de Catalunya president, told Mundo Deportivo newspaper: "We (Barcelona and Valencia) have two completely different business models, making the negotiations quite complex.

"We need to find the balance between the interests of Mr. Ecclestone, Valencia and ourselves," he added.

He said that in the absence of a deal, Barcelona has the annual Spanish grand prix hosting rights through 2016.

But he acknowledged that alternating would be a "good solution" for all parties, "so I hope that in a couple of months we can make an announcement".

HRT was 'risky team' for Senna – mother
(GMM) HRT was a "risky team" for Bruno Senna to drive for in 2010, the Brazilian's mother Viviane has admitted.

Senna, whose mother is the great Ayrton Senna's sister, went on to race for Renault (now Lotus) last year and for 2012 has switched to Williams.

"What matters is that the team can give Bruno the best conditions to develop his ability," Viviane Senna told TV Globo.

"I was not happy with Hispania. They had no spare parts, so if something was broken it would be patched up for the next race. You never knew when the next thing was going to break.

"Yes, that was a risky team," she admitted.

Many observers see 2012 as 28-year-old Senna's last chance to prove he is even a shadow of his late, great uncle.

Viviane insisted: "People remember Ayrton the winner, the champion, but few remember how long he took to get there.

"Bruno went from nothing to F1 in five years. It's an unfair comparison to those who have done it (racing) for their whole lives."

De Villota admits not Marussia reserve
(GMM) Maria de Villota has admitted she is not Marussia's reserve driver for 2012.

The 32-year-old Spaniard made international headlines last week by signing with the former Virgin team.

But she has admitted that, should Timo Glock or Charles Pic be unable to race this season, she will not automatically step into the MR01.

"I am available but I am a test driver, not the reserve driver," she told the AS sports daily.

"Everything is to be decided by the team," added de Villota, who revealed she will travel to all the grands prix this year.

"If there is an incident with them (the race drivers) … you will have to ask John Booth, the team boss," she answered.

De Villota is also not contracted to practice on Friday mornings, but would not reveal any further details of her new contract.

"I am blessed by sponsors who have got me into F1 under conditions no one would have imagined were possible. I'm proud of that," she said.

Briatore blasts F1 'show'
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has hit out at formula one by suggesting "any top driver" would have won last year's title with the 2011 Red Bull.

"It's only a real show now when it rains," the former Renault team boss told Italy's Sky Sport 24.

Briatore, 61, blames the huge role played by technology.

"If you were to take GP2 cars and put the 6 world champions in them, it would be more fun," he insisted.

"The car is now made in the wind tunnel, the engineers aren't even at the circuits and they spend 200 million euros making identical machines.

"Last year, the championship was over after the first race, and this will be the same; McLaren are two tenths from Red Bull, Mercedes three, and Ferrari and Lotus 4 to 7.

"Two tenths is like 2-0 behind in a football game. In F1, the Messi is Alonso, but if his car is not competitive, he is going nowhere."

Enzo Ferrari museum opens in Modena
A brand-new museum, dedicated to the life of Enzo Ferrari, was opened in his home city of Modena on Sunday morning. Born on February 18, 1898, the Italian established his now world-renowned marque in the late 1920s, with Ferrari standing as the only manufacturer in the history of Formula 1 to have entered every season of competition.

Aptly named 'The Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari', members of the public can take a detailed look at Enzo's life, displayed through pictures, unpublished films, personal objects and documents. A number of Enzo's most iconic creations are also housed within the 6,000 m2 complex, providing the opportunity to view his work first-hand.

During his time at the helm of Scuderia Ferrari, Enzo guided the team to eight World Constructors' crowns and nine Drivers' titles. Having passed away in Maranello on August 14, 1988, he is remembered as one of Formula 1's greatest ever characters.

Ferrari not writing off original F2012 exhaust design yet
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali says the team hasn’t given up on the original exhaust configuration which featured on the F2012 in the early stages of pre-season testing – and will try again at the Mugello test in May.

The placing of the exhaust outlets on the 2012 cars has been one of the big talking points of the winter in wake of the FIA’s clampdown on the blowing of exhaust gasses to deride aerodynamic benefits. Having deliberately taken a more radical approach with the F2012 in a bid to jump both Red Bull and McLaren, Ferrari launched the car with a particularly aggressive solution but was forced to row back to a more conventional layout at the final Barcelona test after encountering knock-on problems at the rear of the car.

Domenicali admits to being “not happy" about being forced to take a step back in this area for now, but says the team’s engineers at Maranello are still working on a revised configuration that they aim to run at the Mugello test, which takes place on May 1 after the opening four flyaway rounds.

“We had asked our engineers for an extreme car, because without that, we would have been unable to close the gap to the best," he said in a briefing with Italian journalists. “The first configuration of the exhausts showed good potential, but it caused problems: the tires overheated
and the performance was unstable. Therefore we had to change, even if I certainly was not happy about it. We are still working on the original set up, but we will be unable to test it until the Mugello test at the beginning of May, because we believe it could give us a good performance advantage."

Indeed the Italian reckons Ferrari will only really have a clear idea of where they stand the pecking order after the fourth round in Bahrain, Domenicali joining Fernando Alonso and Luca di Montezemolo in expressing hope that the F2012’s initial competiveness isn’t as bad as has been feared in recent weeks.

“The lack of satisfaction comes from the fact we did not meet our technical targets and so everything refers to ourselves," he said. “Where we are compared to the others, we do not know for certain and our lack of satisfaction might also turn out to be excessive. Having said this, a clearer picture of the hierarchy on track will only emerge after the first four races." JamesAllen

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